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How To Buy Hockey Protective Equipment

Hockey is a fast-paced, hard-hitting sport, with hard pucks and sharp skates a part of the game. It is imperative that the hockey player chooses the proper protective equipment and wears it at all times when on the ice.


  • All levels of hockey, even the NHL, require players to wear a protective helmet when playing
  • There are a large variety of helmet types available. To assure their safety compliance most helmets and face masks are certified by a professional association, such as the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC). Look for a Seal of Approval.


  • Most helmets are made of a polycarbonate material, which is basically a lightweight plastic
  • Hockey helmets come in either one or two-piece construction, with the two-piece version offering a more customized fit
  • All helmets have liners inside the shell to help absorb impact and to make the helmet more comfortable. Many have double liners--one to absorb the impact and the other to help with comfort.
  • Safety experts recommend that padding be at least 5/8 in thick

Determining your helmet size

  • Helmets come in a variety of sizes and are usually measured in inches
  • To ensure a player's safety it is important that his/her helmet fits properly

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Face masks

All juniors through college level players are required to have a face mask on their helmets. Face masks are either sold as part of the helmet or come separately. There are three kinds - wire cage, face shield, and combination.

Wire Cage

  • A wire cage consists of a metal or composite shield that covers the entire face area
  • Wire cages provide more protection and do not fog up like face shields

Face shields

  • These are generally a high impact-resistant plastic that covers the front of the face
  • Some players choose face shields because they offer better overall vision with no wires getting in the way
  • Face shields tend to fog up during use, but they are often now made with fog-resistant coatings

Combination masks

  • Some manufacturers now offer the best of both designs - a plastic face shield to protect the eyes and upper part of the face, and a wire mesh to cover the lower jaw and to add ventilation

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Mouth guards

  • Mouth guards either come pre-formed to mold to the mouth during use, or can be softened by heating and then molded by biting down on them
  • Mouth guards come in general sizes to fit youths, teenagers and adults

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Ear protectors

  • An additional piece of helmet safety equipment is the ear protector, which can be inserted into helmets for extra comfort and protection
  • Ear protectors are also very useful on cold days for extra warmth

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Because of the nature of this contact sport, hockey players are required to wear a variety of pads for protection. Each has its own function and must be chosen to fit your playing style and size.

Shoulder pads

  • These protect your collarbone, upper chest, back, upper arms, and your shoulders
  • You should look for shoulder pads that provide the most padding available for your needs
    • Forwards should look for lighter weight pads that offer more freedom of movement
    • Defensemen require larger pads with maximum protection against being hit by pucks
  • Some pads also protect the heart area
  • There is also extra lower-back protection available either as part of the shoulder pad or as an attachment

Determining your shoulder pad size

  • Most pads are sized according to body type
  • To measure, wrap a tape measure around your chest just below your arm pits
  • Different manufacturers use different sizing charts, but the chart below provides a general guide
Determining Your Shoulder Pad Size
Finding your size
Junior Small22 - 2456 - 61
Junior Medium24 - 2861 - 71
Junior Large28 - 3071 - 76
Senior Small30 - 3276 - 81
Senior Medium32 - 3481.5 - 86.5
Senior Large36 - 3891.5 - 96.5
Senior X-Large40 - 42101.5 - 107

Elbow pads

  • Elbow pads are necessary to protect against painful bone bruises, and even fractured elbows, from falls or being hit by a stick
  • Elbow pads cover the muscular part of the arm in addition to the elbow
  • They cover the area from just below the shoulder pad to just above the hockey glove
  • Most elbow pads are adjustable and are secured with Velcro straps, so sizing is general according to body size. There are also varying numbers of straps available on different pads to help with adjustments.
  • You may want to add a forearm slash pad for further protection in a sensitive, highly vulnerable area

Dertermining your elbow pad size

  • Determine the distance between the edge of your shoulder pads and the cuff of your hockey glove. The elbow pad should leave no exposed skin between the shoulder pad and the glove.
  • Different manufacturers use different sizing methods, but the chart below is a good indicator of the elbow pad size you should buy based on the above measurement
Determining Your Elbow Pad Size
Finding your size
Youth Small7.5
Youth Medium8.5
Youth Large9.5
Junior Small10.5
Junior Medium11.5
Junior Large12.5
Senior Small13.5
Senior Medium14.5
Senior Large15.5 and above

Shin pads

  • These are mandatory to protect against hits by a puck or an opponent's stick
  • Shin pads range from 7 to 17 inches in length and are designed to fit over the kneecap to just above the skate top. You should look for one sized to your height.
  • Forwards usually prefer lighter pads with less protection that allow them to skate faster
  • Defensemen should look for a heavier shin guard that helps protect against pucks and opponent's sticks

Determining your shin pads size

  • While you are sitting down, measure from the middle of your knee cap to the top of your skate
  • This is your shin measurement and should be matched to the manufacturer's specifications on the shin pad
  • Different manufacturers use different sizing methods, but the chart below is a good indicator of the shin pad size you should buy based on the above measurement
Determining Your Shin Pad Size
Finding your size
Youth8 20.5
Youth9 23
Junior10 25.5
Junior11 28
Junior12 30.5
Senior14 36.5
Senior15 38.5
Senior16 41
Senior17 43

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  • Hockey gloves protect the hand and wrist without loss of flexibility or comfort
  • Traditional gloves have all-leather construction, but modern versions incorporate Kevlar® and nylon for increased strength, durability and comfort
  • It is okay for gloves to be a little large, as long as the padding covers all areas of the hand and wrist

Determining your glove size

  • Gloves range from youth sizes of about 9 inches up to full adult sizes of 16 inches
  • Use a tape measure to measure the distance from where your elbow pads end to the tip of your fingers. This number equals your glove size.
  • Different manufacturers use different sizing methods, but the chart below is a good indicator of the glove size you should buy based on the above measurement
Determining Your Glove Size
Finding your size

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Kevlar® is a registered trademark of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and company