The best piece of hockey equipment is a good fitting and well-maintained one. At the beginning of each season, we recommend our customers do an inventory of what is in your hockey bag, including the bag itself. Intimidating, I know, but it’s worth it long term!
Try to do this well ahead to your first skate of the season. If you are not sure if any of your own or your child’s gear is in good shape or still fits properly, please visit a local hockey store that you trust to get correct and informed answers.
Here are a few questions every parent and junior-hockey player should ask about their equipment. For the purpose of this discussion I’m sticking with player’s gear. We will get into goalie gear in a future article.
1. Does the gear fit?
Children generally have growth spurts around their birthday, so buying gear can be tricky. Most people who purchase without checking with trained staff tend to buy shin pads too big.
- My rule of thumb for protective gear (shoulder pads, elbow pads, pants, shin pads and gloves) is that they all should meet or overlap slightly.
- Shin pads should sit two fingers above the top of the foot as they get pushed up when skating.
- Elbow pads and gloves should meet to prevent open gaps that could be vulnerable to slashing.
- Pants should sit on the hips and be at mid knee when standing, since they’ll shift up with each skating stride.
- Helmets should sit on the top of one’s head and be approximately one finger above the eye brows. They shouldn’t be so tight they hurt, or too loose to shift.
- Masks should rest on the chin and not move after being hit.
- Skates should be snug and not hurt or push toes back. I would definitely confirm with your local store on fit. Proper sizing technique allows for a standard size pen down the back of the book when the skater’s toes are touching the front. You can also pull out the insoles and step on them to see if there is any overhang at the toe or width.
2. Does any piece of gear require any repairs?
Most gear can be repaired if stitches come out; holes in palms of gloves, rusted eyelets or rivets on skates, etc. Sometimes this can be more cost effective than replacing the gear in question. Check with your local store on pricing and repair options.
3. Are there any parts missing?
This is most common on skates or helmets. Screws and nuts need to be periodically tightened. We try to do this during skate sharpening or between games/practices. It’s a good idea to keep a screwdriver in the hockey bag, and tighten screws on helmets every few games or so. Check skates with accessible screws/nuts like Graf or CCM/Reebok after every couple of uses, or ask your trusted skate sharpener to do it when you bring them in for a touch up.
4. When was the last time my gear was cleaned?
There are some great equipment laundry services available. I like to clean my gear at the end of season before storing for the summer, and then again around Christmas time during a several-day break. In the Greater Toronto Area I like to use Hockey Clean, a laundry service where you drop your gear off at an approved drop zone and pick up again 24-48 hours later. Their soap is designed to kill bacteria on all your gear, including the bag. Whatever is not washed in their machines is hand washed before going into their drying room, and they randomly swab test bags of gear and will email you the results. I find my gear smells better and is lighter with each wash. It’s well worth the price of this service.
I recommend parents of children under 13 years of age clean hockey gear a couple of times a year, before pre-season skates. During a mid-season break around Christmas and at the end of the season are usually the best times. Give yourself a couple of weeks to research products you need to purchase and repair any gear. The more proactive you are in keeping an eye on your children’s gear, the less money you will need to spend.
If you have gear that’s outgrown and no younger siblings to pass it down to, please consider your options for trade-ins, sales or donation. Hockey Education Reaching Out Society (HEROS) is the charity that runs this website and they gratefully accept lightly used youth gear in various cities throughout Canada. For more information visit www.heroshockey.com
Have a great season, everybody!