So we’ve just finished putting our shorts and socks on and now most hockey players will opt for their skates next.
Skates – Possibly the most expensive item of kit, hockey skates are obviously an important purchase. Having comfortable and well-supported skates is a must for hockey. I’m rocking some CCM skates currently and even at £65 they’ve been great to skate in. It’s worth checking the descriptions before buying skates too as some of the cheaper pairs will slip in ‘not suitable for hockey’ despite looking the part. This is often because the bridge between the blades isn’t strong enough to deal with impact or fast movement. Skates take a battering at times and you don’t want to go breaking your ankle.
Price: Between £50 and £700
Shoulders – Not quite the shoulder pads your Mum wore in the 80′s, these cover your chest plate area, upper arms and shoulders, and a large part of your back. They’re far lighter than you anticipate when first wearing them but provide great coverage when a puck is smashed at you. At my level we aren’t taking big hits regularly so my Warrior pads have been a good buy.
Price: Between £25 and £70
Elbows – One of the only legal requirements for playing recreational ice hockey in the UK. Elbow pads protect you from collisions with other players and the sideboards, but most importantly they cushion any falls onto the ice. You’d be surprised at how quickly you fall at times and often you have little control over your elbows. Again I’m wearing Warrior pads here (I’m not sponsored, honestly) and these have done the job. I’ve also noticed that my elbow pads are a great help when climbing over the bench late in a session. I can really put my weight into my elbows as I shift my tired legs over.
Price: Between £15 and £50
Gloves – My vote for hardest item to adapt to, hockey gloves offer limited movement between the fingers and it takes some getting used to. They cover your hand and cuff area, with different lengths available depending on your preference. I go long to avoid any contact with my wrists but this can reduce my stick handling at times. Hockey gloves will often wear down in the palm and you’ll notice your stick tape leaving a mark here.
Price: Between £20 and £70
Helmet – No prizes for guessing what this is for. Helmets aren’t particularly comfortable but they’ll save your life. You’ll notice that you can get open fronted helmets, helmets with a half visor, helmets with a full face visor, helmets with a cage. Once you’re 21 or older this is really down to personal choice, with it being a rule to wear a full visor or cage as a youth player. Hockey players look their teeth so as a beginner I’m wearing a half visor / half cage combo. The visor allows me a clear line of sight, whilst the cage gives me more protection on my jaw. It feels safe and has already helped cushion one particularly brutal slip on the ice. You’ll notice that those with an exposed jaw will often, or at least they should, wear a gum shield too.
Price: Between £50 and £150
Stick – This can say a lot about a hockey player, as sticks can come in all materials, lengths, blade curves, and colours. Cheaper sticks will be made of wood with a fiberglass covering over the blade, whereas the more expensive options will be aluminium or a composite material. They’re loosely L shaped and this is broken down into a shaft, the part you hold, and the blade. Both parts will often be covered in generous amounts of hockey tape, a fabric based material that protects the stick on the blade and gives your hands a better grip on the shaft. As a beginner I’m using a wooden bezerker stick with a fairly pronounced curve on my blade. It’s supposed to give my shots more movement but I’ve yet to really nail that!
Price: Between £15 and £300
So that’s it for the average players. It takes around 20 minutes to put on, and considerably less time to take it all off again. The key once taking it off is getting it dried and aired as soon as possible – the longer you leave it the earlier it starts to smell of old sweat and damp and that’s never a pleasant session. I tend to head home and hang my kit up on a clotheshorse, spray it with Fabreeze, and turn a portable fan on. It’s kept the smells away for the last seven months so it’s worth trying.