What the Players Wear & Use
Trying to understand how much equipment an average hockey player has to wear isn’t easy if you have never played the sport. If you’re a fan but never played here’s a generalized list of what players have to wear. Players wear more equipment in hockey then any other sport because their constantly exposed to hard surfaces like the ice, boards, sticks, skates, pucks, goal posts and other players. Players and leagues need to be up on all the constant changes that are happening to hockey equipment. No other sport has seen more changes to its equipment than hockey.
The first and probably most distinct aspect of hockey are the skates. A hockey skate is basically a boot attached to a blade underneath. This boot fits snuggly over your foot and should offer support to your ankle and protection from errant pucks. The blade is attached to the boot by supports. The thickness of the blade and how it’s sharpened has always intrigued and mystified non hockey people. Most people think hockey blades are sharp like knives but this is not the case. The blade is about an eighth of an inch thick and the bottom is cupped (not flat) which creates two edges (inside & outside). Instead of having a flat bottom this concaved area is called the “hollow.” This lets the players stop and make turns easier but it also can cut into the ice too much and slow the player down. That’s why skate sharpening is such an art form.
Some of the brand name hockey skate makers are CCM, Bauer, Nike and Mission. One of the best selling skates is the Bauer Vapor SFI XI.
A hockey stick consists of a shaft and blade. The shaft being what you hold onto and the blade is what makes contact with the puck. Original hockey sticks use to be made from a solid piece of wood. You would literally have to cut down a tree to make a hockey stick. Today most amateur and pro players use the modern composite sticks opposed to the traditional wooden hockey stick. You can see the difference below:
Traditional wooden hockey sticks which were used for decades and have been highly effective in helping Gretzky, Lemieux & Esposito score 50 goals are now being indirectly phased out. These sticks are not made of one solid piece of wood like the original sticks but with a wooden shaft and blade that would be glued together in a factory. You could get them with a fiberglass coating on the blade and partly up the shaft to help reinforce the stick. These sticks could be cut and sanded to the exact liking of the player. The blades can be either straight or curved and tape would be applied if the player wanted it. Wood sticks are heavier and are less likely to cause accidental injuries to another player.
Modern composite sticks which came on the seen in the 1990s are made from Aluminum, Fiberglass, Graphite, Kevlar or Titanium. Most composite sticks come in two pieces, shaft and blade. The shafts are made from the above composite materials but the blades are made mostly from wood and are glued to the shaft. When the blade brakes on these sticks you just go out and get yourself a replacement blade. These blades can be either straight or curved and tape would be applied if the player wanted it. These kinds of hockey sticks tend last longer but are more expensive than traditional wooden sticks. Composite sticks are lighter but maintain there stiffness right until breakage. It might require less skill to use a composite stick than a traditional hockey stick.
The maximum stick length of an NHL stick is 63 inches. The minimum NHL stick width is 2 inches. The maximum NHL stick curve is ½ of an inch.
Some of the brand name hockey stick makers are Easton, Gear, Bauer, CCM, TPS and Koho. One of the best selling hockey sticks is the Gear Velocity Grip Composite Stick.
A hockey puck is shaped like a donut except without the hole. It is a black rubber disk that is flat on both sides and slides on the ice instead of rolling like most ball sports. These hockey pucks need to be frozen before they can be used or they will stick to the ice. This also makes the puck very hard and getting hit with the puck painful in unprotected areas. Learning to stick handle a puck takes skill because both the stick and the puck are hard materials with very little give.
The hockey helmet became mandatory in the NHL in 1979 requiring every new player to wear a helmet. Unfortunately the league didn’t say which helmets they had to wear leaving the decision up to the player. The helmet Wayne Gretzky wore during his career was more like a broomball helmet then a hockey helmet which didn’t give much protection.
When it comes to equipment standards the NHL has failed miserably. Helmets are supposed to fit snuggly but not tightly. They have screws on the side to help adjust the helmet to your head. Experts believe the padding inside the helmet should be at least 5/8 of an inch thick. There are two different kids of face protection the Wire Mask and the Plastic Shield.
The Wire Mask or Cage will cover the entire face and offer maximum protection. It is lighter then the shield and won’t fog up in high humidity but might cause vision problems if the wires are directly in front of the eyes.
The Face Shield is made from a high impact plastic and you can get them in full or half shields. The half shields are called visors and these are what many NHL players wear.
Some of the brand name hockey helmet makers are Bauer, CCM and Itech.
The size and strength of hockey pads has certainly improved over the years. Some experts believe this has lead to more injures, particularly concussions. The Pads are made for the Shoulders, Elbows and Shins and come in all different sizes.
The Shoulder Pads protect the collar bone, chest, upper back and arms and shoulders. Forwards require lighter pads for less constricted movements and Defenseman need larger pads the will help stop the puck and oncoming forwards. These pads are sized by body type.
Elbow Pads are made to protect the elbow itself including muscle above and below. These pads help prevent fractures, bruises and dislocations but can also inflict damage on opposing players.
These Shin Pads help protect against bruising and broken bones from pucks and opponent’s sticks. They fit over the kneecap to just above the skate. Defenseman usually wears bigger shin pads because they block more shots and defend the net more then forwards.
Some of the brand name hockey pads makers are Bauer, Jofa, Mission, and Itech.
Hockey gloves should protect the hand and wrist without the player losing any flexibility. Old hockey gloves had very little padding but were long and would give players protection right up to the elbow. The new gloves have been called “gardening gloves” because they don’t give much protection beyond the wrist. Players seem to like these gloves because its gives them even more flexibility but at the expense of protection.
Some of the brand name hockey glove makers are Mission, Bauer and Easton.
Goalie equipment consists of leg pads, chest pads, glove and blocker, stick, mask and skates. The size of goalie equipment has become very controversial over the last few years because of the downward spiral of goals scored in the NHL. The fans and media have been paying more attention to the equipment goalies wear. When compared with equipment goalies wore just 20 years ago you can see the chest pads, leg pads, blocker and gloves were all smaller.
Leg Pads offer protection for the shins and thighs and usually comes in 24 to 36 inch sizes. Leg pads are fastened on by metal or plastic clips at the back. They are used to help stop or deflect the puck away from the net.
Chest Pads offer protection to the upper torso and heart. They also protect the biceps, clavicle and shoulders. They also include air and foam padding for extra protection.
The Glove is worn on the non-stick hand and is used to catch the puck. The Blocker is worn on the hand that holds the stick. It includes a glove with a large rectangular padded blocker on top. The blocker is used to deflect the puck away from the net.
The Goalie Stick in a lot heavier and larger then the player sticks. This stick includes a wider blade that goes partly up the stick which is called the paddle. This paddle helps the goalie to either stop the puck or deflect it away from the net.
Goalie Skates are similar to player skates because they also consist of a boot and blade. They also have more ankle and foot protection and have a wider blade. Like player skates the bottom is concave but the hollow that is smaller.
Some of the brand name goalie equipment makers are Bauer, TPS, Mission, Itech and CCM.
These pants offer protection from the kidney area to above the kneecap. They usually consist of a belt, kidney pad, tailbone pad and thigh pads.
Some of the brand name hockey pants makers are Bauer, Hespeler, CCM and Itech.
All male hockey players will need to wear an athletic supporter/cup or they can forget about having children in the future. These new supporters are a lot bigger then the old cups and will protect the entire groin area. Female players can also wear a pelvic protector. Goaltenders would have a significantly larger athletic supporter then the players.