Last week I ventured into one of my favourite stores, Pro Hockey Life. I don’t play hockey, but I buy enough equipment to be fascinated by a store dedicated solely to…hockey equipment.
Normally when I hit PLH I have at least one of the kids in tow. But this time, I was buying a birthday present: a hockey stick, for my middle child. I’m already breaking rule #1 – have your child with you when buying their equipment. I figure this time it was ok because a) it was his birthday, and b) I knew what he wanted. Thank goodness, because in any sports store, let alone PHL, purchasing equipment can be overwhelming with so many options.
I took advantage of my time in PHL to speak with two employees and asked them tips for buying equipment. Keeping in mind many of our first time hockey parents, I also asked what types of common mistakes people made when they are purchasing equipment for their kids. I’ve summarized my discussions below. Thanks to Daniel and Trevor at PLK Kanata for all your help, and demonstrating once again the endless patience that I’ve come to expect from PHL staff.
Here are some very brief tips on what to “do” and what to “avoid” when purchasing equipment. There is lots more to know, but consider this an Equipment 101.
Do: Know which way your child shoots and how much they weigh. You need to know a bit about flex and curve Remember there are four sizes of sticks, youth, junior, intermediate, and senior. The shaft gets larger with larger sticks and smaller sticks have more flex (are more “bendy”).
Avoid: Buying a stick that is too large for your player, and remember, when you cut a stick you end up with a higher flex (less bendy). Take that into consideration when purchasing a stick. Your child will probably want to try them out. PHL has a great little mini rink for just that function.
Do: Bring your child in to be fitted. Different brands and helmets fit differently and fit is of the utmost importance. If you buy a helmet in one size, you might need a cage in a different size (for example, you might need a medium helmet but small cage). It all depends on the shape of your child’s head, and the fit of the helmet. Protect your child’s noggin and take some time with this one.
Avoid: Guessing at helmet size or buying a helmet too big. And remember to check that expiration sticker on the back.
Do: Remember that the knee needs to sit in the knee pad. The length of the shin pad depends on whether your child wears the shin pad over or under the tongue of the skate. If they wear the shin pad inside it should rest 1 finger width above the ankle, if over, then two fingers above the ankle.
Avoid: Holding onto those old shin pads too long once the child has outgrown them. Getting hit with the puck below the shin pad before the skate starts HURTS!
Do: Remember that the elbow pad needs to cup the elbow to fit properly. And find an elbow pad that fits your child’s arm comfortably and the Velcro is not too snug (meaning it will undo during the game) or too loose (meaning the elbow pad is probably too big).
Avoid: Anything more than one finger width between the top of the glove and the elbow pad. Make sure the forearm is protected!
Do: Take into account a child’s preference for glove fit. Some gloves are “longer” and provide more coverage of the wrist and forearm but are less flexible. Make sure the fingers are close to the end of the gloves (leaving around 1cm of space) but with enough room to move freely.
Avoid: Buying gloves too large so that they player can “grow into them.” The player’s safety and grip will be affected.
Do: Ensure the shoulder cup is on top of the shoulder and does not need to be pushed down to rest on the shoulder pad. The bottom padding should be just touching or covering the belly button.
Avoid: Assuming that all shoulder pads are made the same and try on a few sets for width, length, and neck size. Some shoulder pads don’t expand around the neck which can make it difficult for larger-headed kids to get them on and off (trust me on this one).
Do: Check out pants for different builds of players, focusing on the waist first. The bottom of the pant should be at the middle or one centimeter above the knee. Worried about your growing child? Some models of pants now come with a zipper around each leg that can be undone to extend the pant leg an extra inch or so for players who have grown.
Avoid: Buying pants too large, pants that extend past the knee are too long and will affect mobility on the ice.
Do: Remember that neck guards are not necessarily made to stop impact from pucks but more to stop cutting from blades. Kevlar type neck guards that may be built into under gear are the most resistant to cuts.
Avoid: Neck guards that are too bulky, and remember to wear under gear that can help with sweat.
Not much to say about jocks and jills except chose a style according to your preference. The “cup” on both get larger as the size increases. You can purchase a short-style, or a built in model (either compression shorts or full-length pants). Up to you.
We could go on forever about skates. But here are the quick and dirty tips.
Do: Be prepared to spend some time selecting skates for your player(s). Be aware that for each brand there could be three different lines of skates that fit three different ways. A good “skate fitter” will measure the size of the foot both standing up and sitting down. You can spend a lot of money on skates. Know that as you go up in price point the boots of skates get stiffer and tend to fit to the foot better, and last longer, and the steel used in the blades is of a higher quality. Once you get to a mid-level skate, they are heat mouldable (which helps fit the skate to the player’s foot even more). To help with fit, you can also purchase “Superfeet” which can help to take up extra space in the skate and fit the skate to your child’s foot.
When it comes to sharpening, consider “profiling” your child’s skate. This is done according to size, body weight, and position. Profiling the skates means sharpening the blades to have better contact or more contact of blade on ice. Profiling does cost more, but the price is negligible if included with the purchase of your new skates.
Avoid: Buying skates too big in order for your child to “fit into” them. One full size is pushing it, but if you do that, be sure to purchase some “Superfeet” to help with fit. Do not buy skates too big and then have the child wear larger/extra socks. Also avoid wrapping the laces around the skates when you tie them up (no, it does NOT provide more support). And skates should always be wiped dry after practice and stored with a cloth skate guard in the bag to absorb any moisture and avoid rust.
Those are our tips from Daniel and Trevor at the Kanata PHL. Thanks to both for their time.
We’ve got lots more information on our equipment page. Be sure to check it out if you have any questions, or send us in your own tips that our Hockey Moms (and kids) could learn from!