The Beginner’s Guide to Essential Hockey Gear

The Ultimate Guide to All Gear Needed to Play HockeySo you’ve decided to start playing hockey. Good for you! Hockey is a fun, active sport that takes a lot of skill, but it can also be dangerous if you don’t equip yourself properly. Before choosing to start playing hockey, you must have some essential gear and equipment in order to play.

All the hockey equipment available can be confusing, and there are a lot of questions that you may ask. What do you need? What gear is optional? What hockey gear will benefit you most? How do you know what to get for your first game? This guide is here to answer all of your questions and let you know what hockey gear you should get as you begin to play hockey. Keep reading to learn about the essential and optional hockey gear to purchase.

The Importance of Having High-Quality Gear

Since hockey is a contact sport on hard, cold ice, having high-quality gear is imperative to ensure that you stay safe, and to make sure that your gear that will last and not break soon after taking some damage. You will also want to find a store that carries this gear so you can try it on or buy from a website that will let you return anything that doesn’t fit properly.

Having a bit of guidance to ensure you have the right sizing and levels never hurts, especially for the ticket cost of buying all of your beginner’s hockey gear will run you at least a few hundred dollars. Whether buying new or used, it is important to make sure that the gear you’re buying is high-quality and will last you its money’s worth, as well as keep you safe while doing so.

The Essentials

At the least, there are a few items that you need to play hockey—though having only these two items probably won’t suffice if you are trying to play on an actual team. But for those that are going to start by playing some pick-up games or just for fun, the bare minimum essentials that you’ll require are a hockey stick and a good pair of ice skates.

Hockey Stick

How to Choose a Hockey StickA hockey stick is necessary to play hockey and hit the puck. To start off, you’ll probably want to get a stick that has a neutral curve. The more you practice and play, the better feel you will get for how much of a curve you should get in your next hockey stick.

Next, you’ll have to determine if you hold your stick right-handed or left-handed. While this may be obvious for some people, there are others who are more ambidextrous in their sporting equipment, so choose whichever grip (right hand above left, or left hand above right) feels most natural for you.

The right hockey stick for you also depends on how tall you are. Determining the right length, as well as how much flex you need in your stick, is very important for how you will play. The best way to determine length is by picking a stick that comes up somewhere between your chin and nose when you stand up.

Lastly, how much flex that you think you need from your hockey stick allows you to play without your stick feeling too hard or too loose. Some of these may take a bit of trial and error, so if you aren’t sure, you may be better off getting a cheaper and/or used stick for your first purchase, or to borrow an extra stick from a friend until you have a better idea of what kind of stick is best for you. As you can see, there are a lot of factors that go into choosing the right hockey stick, so try out a few and see which ones feel best to you.

Hockey Skates

Without skates, you cannot play hockey or skate on the ice. Figure skates will not do; you need some sturdy hockey skates to play this game and give you the support that you need. Depending on your size and build, you may need more or less support from your hockey skates.

You’ll also want to try on your skates to ensure the right fit, whether they are your first pair or not, since different manufacturers can differ in their fit and sizing. Lastly, determine how much and how often you will be playing, so that you get a good enough pair of skates that will last you longer. If you’re just starting out, you may get the most out of a pair of beginner hockey skates.

Safety Equipment

Though a hockey stick and skates are a great start to add to your hockey gear, having these two items aren’t quite enough to play hockey on a team. Unfortunately, injuries can be all too common in hockey, so you want to make sure that you are protecting yourself properly with the right safety equipment. There is a good chance that you will fall often as a beginner, so you need to protect yourself from any potential injuries if you want to continue playing.

Helmet

A helmet is a necessity when playing a serious game of hockey, maybe even if you only intend to play with some friends on the ice (depending on how hard you think you will play). Just like you would when riding a bike, it is vital to protect your head when skating around on ice. Since everyone’s head is a different shape, it is important to get a properly fitting helmet for your head.

While it is not necessary or required to get with your helmet, it is probably a good idea as a beginner to get a helmet with a visor or a cage. This will protect you even further in case you fall so that your face, as well as your head, is protected from any falls or the hockey puck flying at you.

Shoulder Pads

Choosing the Right Shoulder Pads for HockeyShoulder pads are an optional item that may not be needed if you play in a league that does not allow slap-shots and is no-contact, but if you choose to get them, they will help protect you as a newer player who may fall more often. To have a good feel of the shoulder pads, your best bet is choosing some that aren’t too bulky so you can still easily skate around and not feel like you have too much extra on you.

Elbow Pads

Elbow pads are one of the things that will protect you from any potential slicing, as well as cover your arms from the cold ice if and when you fall. You want these to fit securely and well, and they can even aid you in getting up from the ice with the extra padding.

Hockey Gloves

It is cold out there on the ice rink. Hockey gloves will not only keep your hands warm, but help you grip your hockey stick. Some gloves fit more snug than others, and flexibility differs in the different types available. This all depends on personal preference, so you may want a more flexible pair of gloves that allow you to move your fingers more, or you may want a more traditional, wider glove for extra protection.

Neck Guard

While a neck guard is technically optional, it can protect you from a possible skate blade to your neck. In 1989, Buffalo Sabres goalie Clint Malarchuk was famously injured when another player crashed into him and the blade of his ice skate slit Malarchuk’s throat. While Malarchuk survived, his story is still a precautionary tale for anyone who wants to play hockey. Accidents can happen while on the ice, even for professionals. A neck guard can potentially save your life, so I always recommend them for everyone, regardless of experience level.

Impact Shorts

Like most of your hockey gear, getting the right size impact shorts for your outfit is essential for playing. You don’t want them too big, as they may sag and become a burden as you skate. But you also don’t want them too short or tight, as they will expose more of your body that you want to cover for safety. The style of shorts that you purchase should best fit your specific build, offering both protection and mobility.

Shin Pads

How to Choose Shin Pads for HockeyJust like your elbows, your shins should be protected in case of a fall to prevent injury. The biggest detail to keep in mind here is to make sure that the shin pads you choose do not interfere with your skates. It isn’t a bad idea to bring your skates with you to try on shin pads, so you can make sure that the pair you choose will work well with your other gear. Again, you don’t want them too big or too small, but finding that “just right” pair is what you’re going for.

Mouth Guard

Lastly, don’t forget your mouth guard! As you may have guessed, the mouth guard protects your teeth in the even that something hits you in the face. You don’t want to become a hockey player with missing teeth now, do you? Your dentist might not be too happy.

Goalie-Specific Gear

If you decide or are chosen to be the hockey team’s goalie, there is a bit of extra equipment or different equipment needed to play. When heavy pucks are flying at you at alarming speeds, a bit of extra or different equipment is necessary.

Goalie Mask

While getting a mask on your helmet as a hockey player that isn’t in the goalie position isn’t a requirement, face protection as a goalie is a must. Make sure that your mask cage is fitted properly and pay attention to your vision and sightlines. You don’t want any blind spots when it’s your job to look out for the puck and block it from the goal.

Goal Stick

A goal stick is a different type of hockey stick than what you’d regularly play with. You cannot play with the big, long stick that regular players use. Again, different hockey stick companies use different sizing systems, so you’ll have to figure out what length is optimal for you depending on your height. You’ll want to have a good grip on the top of the stick, and using white tape rather than black tape at the top of the paddle, and on the bottom of the shaft, will be better than black so that you can better see the puck.

Goal Skates

The skates for goalies differ in that they are much lower cut in the ankle, allowing for more flexibility. They also have a lower tongue and less support overall for increased mobility. The skates themselves are also straight and flat instead of curved, allowing the goalie to move easily from side to side.

Chest and Arm Protectors

Again, when there is a dense puck being shot at you, you want to protect yourself as much as possible. Getting chest and arm protectors will help to protect more areas of the body, and should overlap with the other pads. Just like with other pads, you don’t want these too bulky that they will slow you down, but you also want to ensure that you are getting optimal protection.

Blocker

How to Choose a Goalie BlockerChoosing the right blocker is just as important as your glove! Blockers come in two types: regular and full right. Regular is for right-handed people, while the full right is for left-handed blockers. You don’t want too much space from the top of your fingers to the top of the blocker, as it can cause the blocker to feel off-balanced. Lastly, choose how much of a curve you want in your blocker, as there are a variety of options available.

Trapper (Catch Glove)

Catching a puck as a goalie can be a lot of fun, but you’ll need to ensure that you have a proper glove in order to do so. The gloves needed for a goalie shouldn’t be too big or stiff, though it’s true that it will need some breaking in. You also don’t want to heavy of a glove; basically, you want the center of gravity of the glove at the center of the hand, and not on the fingertips. The shape of the glove that you want may differ on how you play, as some catch gloves come close to the palm at a lesser angle, while others are more angled towards 90 degrees.

Goal Jock

Having a jock is important for all players, but especially so for goalies when in the goal. Choose whatever feels most comfortable for you.

Goal Pads

There are some extra pads on the legs that goalies also wear so that they are fully protected. While you don’t want to choose pads that are too bulky and may slow you down, every goalie has a different taste. You can choose from harder or softer pads, curved versus straight, but ultimately what matters is the comfort and feel of the pads as you play.

Other Helpful Gear

Though perhaps not an absolute necessity, there are a few other items you will probably want to add to your list.

Skate Soakers

These skate soakers will be necessary when transporting your hockey skates, since you cannot walk around with them off of the ice! These cloth-lined pouches fit over your skate blades like a shower cap. They even help your blades dry off (after you towel dry them) to help prevent rust.

Skate Guards

When storing your hockey skates, you may also choose skate guards to protect your blades. Unlike skate soakers, skate guards are a hard, slim plastic cover designed to protect the sharp edge of your blades. They allow you to walk on your skates off-ice without ruining the blade, although you don’t want to walk on them for an extended period of time.

Hockey Equipment Bag

Choosing a Bag to Hold Your Hockey GearOf course, you need a hefty bag to lug around all of your essential hockey equipment! Once you start getting most of the necessary gear above, a hockey equipment bag becomes a necessity as well. Having one bag to put all of your stuff makes it a lot easier to transport everything to and from the rink, and it ensures all your things stay in one spot.

You’re Geared Up to Play Hockey

Now that you have all of your essential hockey gear (or at least know what you’ll need to get), you are ready to get out and play! Whether you’re playing in a rink or on a frozen lake, you’re geared up to have the most fun possible. As long as you are protected, you shouldn’t have to worry about much out on the ice, except playing your best.