Hockey is a physical sport, and hockey players wear protective equipment to help protect them from injury. Although checking often does not start until High School or age 13 (14U/Bantam division), there is still incidental contact, and players can get hurt while falling to the ice, running into the boards, or getting hit by the puck.
It is important to have equipment that is in good condition and fits your player properly. There are a number of different manufacturers that offer gear at a number of different price points (Bauer and CCM are the two most popular brands, but there are a number of other manufacturers) . For newer players you will not need brand-new top of line equipment. Players who are growing will likely outgrow their equipment over time, which will need to be replaced. Below is a brief description of some of the equipment that your player will need:
- Helmet: without question a quality hockey helmet is the most important piece of equipment that you can buy for your child (it protects their brain). If you are going to spend a lot of money on any piece of equipment, please invest in a good helmet. All hockey helmets at the youth level will need to be fitted with either a face shield or cage.
- Neck Guard: not all leagues/teams require the use of a neck guard (it is mandatory in some states), but we strongly recommend that all players wear a neck guard to protect them from potential laceration. There are a number of different brands and styles. One excellent option is the Skate-Armor Neck Laceration Protector (see link), which provides excellent cut protection and may be more comfortable than some other neck guards. Your child may complain about wearing a neck guard, but it is important to that you insist that they wear one. It's easier to get new players used to wearing one from the beginning.
- Skates: although rental skates are available at many rinks, you will definitely want to invest in your own pair of skates. Hockey skates generally run 1.5-2 sizes smaller than sneakers. Skate manufacturers offer a variety of different models which differ in terms of their fit and construction. You are going to want a boot that fits properly (don't buy a larger size than they need so that they have some room to grow into). Youth sizes run from size Y6.0-Y13.5, Junior sizes run from size 1.0-5.5, and Senior sizes run from size 6.0 and up. Because kids will often outgrow their skates faster than any other equipment, you can often find used skates that are in excellent condition. Make sure that you periodically have the skates sharpened so that they have a sharp enough edge to be able to bite into the ice. The need sharp edges in order to push, turn and stop - otherwise they will just be sliding around.
- Hockey Pants: There are two styles of pants. There are pants that have the pads integrated with the pant and what is known as a girdle style, which will require you to wear a "shell" on top of the pads. You may also need to invest in a pair of suspenders to help keep you hockey pants from falling down. Some team may require players to wear a shell anyway.
- Jock or Jill: these are shorts or an athletic supporter that will hold a protective cup or shield. Some come with velco tabs that help to hold up your hockey socks.
- Shoulder Pads: this includes pads that cover your chest, back and shoulders
- Shin Pads: these protect both the knee cap as well as the shins. Players typically wear knit or mesh hockey socks over their shin pads, and many may use tape to help hold the pads in place.
- Elbow Pads: these protect the elbow, forearm and upper arm
- Hockey Gloves: protect the hands, fingers and wrist.
- Hockey Stick: there are a variety of different sticks, including both older style wood and newer composite sticks. Sticks come in a variety of lengths. It's important that you chose the right length stick for your child. The standard method for measuring a stick is to put the toe of the stick on the floor between the player's feet with the shaft running parallel to his or her body. The top of the stick should reach the player's nose, when he or she isn't wearing skates (with skates on, the stick should come up to around their chin). If need be a longer stick can be cut down, although doing so may affect the flex of the stick (or how much it bends). Most players will tape the blade of their stick. This provides additional grip on the puck and helps to protect the blade. Players also typically also either tape or use a grip at the butt of their stick. Hockey sticks are meant to be used on the ice. If you want to practice at home, either pick up a street hockey stick, or purchase a wrap-around to protect your blade. Don't ruin your expensive composite stick by using it in the driveway or street.
- Jersey: many leagues or teams will require a player to wear a jersey, but you may also need a practice jersey (over time you will likely accumulate a lot of different jerseys). You want the jersey to be loose enough to fit over their pads and give them freedom of movement, but no so big that it fits like a dress. Different jerseys are sized different ways, so if the rink has a sample to try on, make sure you get the right size. You will likely notice that many players will bring their game jerseys to the rink on a hanger. This is to keep the jersey neat in appearance. Some teams have rules that require players to respect their jersey and bring them to/from a game on a hanger (instead of having them wadded up in a ball in their bag).
- Equipment Bag: now that you have all this stuff, your player will need a bag to carry their stuff around (yes, players should get used to carrying their own equipment - as well as getting dressed). Generally there are three styles of hockey equipment bags that are popular: duffel style bags, backpacks and tower bags. Duffel bags are traditional, with a zipper on the top and two large carry handles that the player generally slings over one shoulder. Backpack bags are pretty self explanatory, but may offer less space than other bags. Tower style bags are especially population with younger players. They stand up vertically and have different compartments which may allow your player to keep their gear more organized. They also have wheels, which make it easier for younger players. Some backpacks and duffel style bags also come with wheels.
Once you have your gear it is important to take care of it. Your child will sweat (a lot) while playing hockey, and their gear will get wet. If you leave wet gear in their equipment bag it will start to smell. The best way to avoid stinky hockey gear is to take the equipment out of the bag to let it air out and dry. You will thank yourself and so will the rest of your family.