When parents enroll their kids into any activity there are a number of boxes they want to check off. Fun, safety and cost all factors that come into play when choosing which sport to get involved in. When it comes to safety, all hockey equipment is necessary to help reduce the risk of injury and keep players safe.
Each piece of equipment plays a role in helping to protect a specific area of the body, which is why it’s important to have gear that fits now; not gear that your child will grow into. It should have a snug (not tight) fit and not shift when in motion. If gear is too large it will shift around on the body, restricting movement on the ice and not fully protect the body as it’s supposed to. Most equipment comes with an adjustable feature that allows players to loosen or tighten their gear. With either Velcro or straps, this can increase the lifespan of equipment as players grow.
Using second-hand, lightly used gear is a great way to save money but any equipment should be carefully inspected to ensure it is still safe to wear. Equipment that is in good condition and well-maintained can last for years and serve many players. Comfortable, well-fitting gear helps to reduce the risk of injury and elevates the enjoyment for the player. Many associations offer an equipment drive or exchange for their members to take advantage of.
If you are new to the game, use this as a step by step guide to help your child in their equipment before they go onto the ice.
1. To save time in the dressing room, have your child already be wearing their base layer that will be worn in between their equipment and skin. This will also help to make sure they have everything ready before they leave home. Once ready to get dressed, start with the jock/jill shorts.
2. It is easiest to start from the legs and work your way up. The first piece of equipment should be the shin pads. They may seem interchangeable but they are specifically designed for the left and right leg. Use the fasteners to help secure the pads behind your legs.
3. Next up is the hockey socks. These go over the shin guards already in place. The socks should be pulled up all the way to the shorts with the bottom of the socks at the bottom of the shin pads. Secure them in place with tape or with fasteners. The tape will also help keep loose shin guards from moving around. Some players may choose to wear a different pair of socks to cover their feet inside their skates.
4. When the socks and shin pads are on, your child can step into their hockey pants and pull them up so that the belt is level with the top of their hips. Adjust the belt to secure position and fasten them tighter with the ties. Make sure the tailbone pad is actually covering the tailbone. This is the final layer of padding for the lower half of the body and why it is so important to have the correct size. They need to fit well over the waist and shouldn’t be covering the knees.
5. Now it’s time to lace up the skates! The bottom of the shin guards should sit right above the tongue of the skate. Tie the top laces as tightly as possible to help support your ankles. The bottom laces on the skate can be made looser based on comfort but beginners should keep them tighter. As with buying a new pair of shoes, check where your toes are in the skate. With your heels at the back of the skate, your toes should barely touch the front of it. It may seem out of order to put on the skates before dressing the upper body but this is because it will be harder to bend over and reach your feet once the shoulder pads and elbow pads are in place.
6. Before putting on the shoulder pads it is recommended to put on the neck guard with a snug fit around the neck. Put your head through and have the top of the shoulder pads should rest on the top of your shoulders. Tighten up the straps around the armpits and upper arm. They should be tight but comfortable and centered on your frame. Lift your hands above your head to test the pads – you should be able to move freely without having the pads dig into your shoulders. The chest should be loose enough that it does not restrict breathing – remember, your child will be working hard out there!
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7. Like the shin pads, the elbow pads are also specific to the left and right side. The tip of the elbow should be tightly in the cup of the pad so there is no movement. You should still be able to move your arm without having your elbow slip out of the cup.
8. You’re almost done! Now it’s time to put on the jersey. Without equipment, the jersey may look too big in size for your child but once they are wearing all their gear you can see why it’s made that way. Make sure there are no pieces or equipment or loose straps hanging outside the jersey that may get caught or tug.
9. Finally, put on the mouth guard and fasten the helmet. The helmet is the most important piece of safety equipment. Fasten the mouth guard to the cage of the helmet and rest the chin in the chinstrap before buckling the cage into place. You can adjust straps to make the helmet snug as it shouldn’t rattle around. The gloves should cover your wrists and parts of your forearm without overlapping the elbow pads. They should be easy to open and close and grip the stick. Your child is now ready to go onto the ice!