Essential Ice Hockey Safety Equipment and Gear

Ice hockey is a fast-moving contact sport played on ice. Collisions between players, the rink and the ice are common, but wearing properly fitting safety equipment and gear can reduce the severity and incidence of many of the most common hockey injuries.

The well-dressed hockey player wears head-to-toe protection including certified safety equipment and well-fitting gear. Hockey helmets with a face shield, mouth guards, hip, shoulder and knee pads, chest protectors, gloves, as well as the right hockey skates and sticks are all essential equipment for both recreational and professional hockey players.

Hockey Helmets

Hockey helmet
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A large number of hockey injuries involve the head and face. Lacerations, concussions, and mouth and jaw injuries can be reduced by wearing properly fitted helmets with face masks. Look for a hockey helmet approved by the HECC (Hockey Equipment Certification Council) or the CAHA (Canadian Amateur Hockey Association). A helmet should fit snugly and have an adjustable chin strap should keep the helmet from moving forward, backward or side to side. Always wear a face shield or mask with your helmet. Some popular hockey helmet brands include CCM, Bauer equipment, Jofa, and Itech.

Hockey Sticks

A hockey stick is literally a hockey player's right (or left) arm. A hockey stick should fit the player according to the so-called "rule of chin." That is, while in your skates, with the stick on the end of its blade, the butt of the stick should be 3 inches under your chin. Sticks are made for left- or right-handed players, depending on the curve of the blade, but youth skaters often use a straight blade stick.

Hockey Skates

Hockey skates need to provide ankle support and allow plenty of control on the ice. It's important to maintain your skates and keep them sharp for the best performance and control and reduce knee and ankle injuries. When it comes to hockey skates, it may be wise to invest in well-known brands, but youth hockey players grow so fast kids can often find used skates with plenty of ice time still in them.

Hockey Shoulder Pads

Hockey shoulder pads generally fit over the head and include a chest and back protector. This provides total protection for the shoulder joint, shoulder girdle (scapula), clavicle (collarbone) and chest. Because they fit as one piece, hockey players can move their arms and shoulders freely have a full range of motion while using the hockey stick. Safety pads and guards are standard safety equipment in dozens of sports.

Goalie Gear

Hockey goalies appear to wear a suit of flexible armor on the ice — they are so well-protected that they can withstand a slap shot of up to 100 mph. In fact, you may find some NHL goalies wearing nearly 50 pounds of gear on the ice.

A hockey goalie helmet with face mask is often made of fiberglass or Kevlar, and goalie masks also have a neck protector. Goalie leg pads not only protect the knees and shins, but they are designed, within restrictions, to give the goalie an additional blocking surface. The goalie also wears a catching glove and a backhand glove to help stop the puck. And finally, the goalie stick has a larger blade to assist with blocking shots and deflecting flying pucks.

Hockey Mouth Guards

Mouth guards help reduce the risk of injury to the face, jaw, mouth, and teeth. You can purchase a boil and bite mouth guard or have one custom made for you by your dentist. Mouth guards are generally considered mandatory safety equipment during sports such as hockey that have a high risk of injury to the face, jaw, and mouth. The most effective mouth guards fit well and are comfortable, but they also stay in place, are durable, easy to clean and don't restrict speaking and breathing. Check your league or team regulations to learn what mouth guard is required.

Hockey Gloves and Elbow Pads

Hard, plastic hockey elbow pads protect the elbow joint from impacts, falls and unnatural twisting movements. Hockey gloves should provide full protection for the hands and wrists within compromising a player's grip on the hockey stick. Thumb injuries are not uncommon during hockey, so be sure to buy gloves that have sufficient thumb protection. The glove's palm and cuff need to be flexible but protective. Always try on gloves. Cuffs that run too far up the arm will hinder your flexibility.

Hockey Pants and Hip Pads

Most hockey pants today are manufactured with pads built inside to cover and protect the hips, thighs, kidneys, and tailbone. Properly fitted pants can prevent your pads from sliding out of place and exposing an area to injury. Your garter belt, which is used to hold your pants up, should be checked frequently for wear and tear. Special pants used for hockey contain padding that supports and protects your hips, thighs, and tailbone.

Hockey Leg, Knee and Shin Guards

Good leg, knee, and shin guards for hockey have a fitted knee cup pad and padding along the sides of the knee. The fit should be close, not bulky and you should have freedom of movement in the legs.

Hockey Groin Protection

If you play hockey you need to protect your groin from taking a direct hit. While you can use any athletic supporter, many hockey players invest in groin protection specifically designed for hockey. These cups are thicker and more padded than regular athletic cups and look a bit like groin protection used by boxers.

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