With the popularity of hockey growing around the world and even reaching into some non-traditional hockey regions, many parents with little or no experience with the game are finding themselves in a position where their kids want to play hockey but they don’t really know where to begin as far as outfitting their kids with equipment. Compared to many other sports, hockey requires an extensive amount of equipment, and it can be a little confusing to a newcomer. It can also be very expensive and if you don’t know what you are doing you can wind up spending a lot of money unnecessarily. So I’m going to give you a brief overview of the pieces of equipment that you must have, as well as some useful tips for getting the most for your money. I’ve played hockey for over 30 years, worked in hockey stores and am now at the point where my kids are starting to play so I’m speaking from experience.
The Necessary Equipment
Skates: Skates are going to be the most expensive and most important item and the one place you don’t want to skimp and buy low quality. There is a huge difference between quality levels of skates when it comes to comfort, performance and durability. If your child has bad skates hockey store that hurt the feet or provide poor support, their ability to play and enjoy the game will greatly suffer. My advice is to put money into good skates and try to save elsewhere. Also, skate sizes do not work the same as shoe sizes so be sure to buy them from someone who knows how to properly fit them.
Shinpads: Cover from just above the skate to above the knee.
Socks: These are long socks that cover the shinpads and are sometimes provided by the team or hockey association. They are held up with a garter belt which you will also need to purchase.
Pants: These are like big padded shorts that should cover to just above the knees.
Cup: Pretty self explanatory and important if you also want grandchildren who play hockey.
Shoulder Pads: These protect the shoulders, upper arms, chest and upper back.
Elbow Pads: Cover the arms from below the shoulder pads to the top of the gloves.
Helmet with Facemask: Facemasks can be either a metal cage or a plastic visor.
Stick: Sticks have traditionally been made of wood and fiberglass but are now available in graphite which are lighter and considerably more expensive. You’ll also need stick tape to wrap the blade with.
Jersey/Sweater: Practice and game sweaters often provided by the team.
Some youth hockey associations require neck guards and mouth/tooth guards. Be sure to check with your local association for their specific guidelines.
Money Saving Tips
Buy Used. Whenever possible, used equipment is the way to go. There are plenty of stores that take trade-ins and sell used equipment. Especially with young kids, the equipment is usually in great shape as it has been outgrown before it is worn out. You also avoid having to “break in” the stiff new equipment. You will not be sacrificing any quality and will save lots of money.
Wood Sticks. Especially for kids, there is no need to spend $150 on a graphite stick. With their skill level and physical strength there is not going to be any difference in performance level or durability. In fact, the graphite stick will quite likely break sooner. I know graphite sticks are the cool thing to have and your child will probably insist on having one but, if at all possible, stick to the $30 wood version.