In ice hockey, players use specialized equipment both to facilitate the play of the game and for protection as this is a sport where injuries are common, therefore, all players are encouraged to protect their bodies from bruises and severe fractures.


The hard surfaces of the ice and boards, pucks flying at high speed (over 160 kilometers per hour [100 mph] at times), and other players maneuvering (and often intentionally colliding, also known as "checking") pose multiple safety hazards. Besides ice skates and sticks, hockey players are usually equipped with an array of safety gear to lessen their risk of serious injury. This usually includes a helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, mouth guard, protective gloves, heavily padded shorts, a 'jock' athletic protector, shin pads/chest protector and a neck guard. Goaltenders wear masks and much bulkier, specialized equipment designed to protect them from many direct hits from the puck. The hockey skate is usually made of a thick layer of leather or nylon to protect the feet and lower legs of the player from injury. Its blade is rounded on both ends to allow for easy maneuvering. Goaltenders' skates, however, have blades that are lower to the ice and more square than round; this is advantageous to the goalies, for whom lateral mobility and stability are more important than quick turns and speed.


The first skates had simple metal blades tied to regular shoes. The sticks were thin pieces of wood until the 1930s. In 1897, G.H. Merritt introduced simple goalie pads by wearing the wicket-keeper's pads. All players played in simple leather gloves, until a Detroit goalie introduced the trapper and blocker in 1948, by experimenting with a rectangular piece of leather, and a baseball catcher's glove. Jacques Plante was the first regular user of the goalie mask; Clint Benedict used a crude leather version in 1928 to protect a broken nose. The goalie mask evolved to Vladislav Tretiak design, the first helmet and cage combo. Considered primitive by today's standard, that sort of mask is used by Chris Osgood, and Tim Thomas. The other helmet and cage combo, used today only by Dominik Hasek and Dan Cloutier is often questioned, citing safety concerns. The most recognized goalie mask today resembles a highly fortified motorcycle helmet with a cage attached, however the construction is very different, being a true mask rather than a helmet. The composite hockey stick era is very new - when the Penguins won the Cup, Tom Barrasso was still using a wood stick.

Equipment used by regular playersEdit

  • Helmet combo - composed of a helmet with strap, and optionally a face cage or visor, and mouthguard is required. They also offer great protection to all hockey players. Hockey helmets come in various sizes but some of the older helmets can also be adjusted by loosening or fastening screws at the side or at the back. All ice hockey helmets are made of vinyl nitrile, which is a durable material and can absorb the impact of hits, sticks, skates and falls on the ice hockey rink. Helmets are mandatory in ice hockey and today the newer helmets also come with a visor or a shield that can protect the upper half of the face. Goalies also wear a device called the face cage which offers full frontal face protection.
  • Neck guard - helps prevent injury from skates, sticks and pucks to the neck and throat. It is usually optional as it restricts neck movement. Neck guards are worn by both players and goalies in order to prevent injury to the neck area from hockey sticks, ice pucks and skates. Neck guards are mandatory for all goalies in ice hockey. These protective pieces of equipment are made of very durable material and absorb all types of trauma.
  • Shoulder pads - also includes torso and spine protection from flying pucks and most collisions. Shoulder pads are made of extremely hard material and play a great role in protecting the player from injury. The shoulder pads are quite broad and rigid but do not hinder movements of the upper body. The major function of shoulder pads is to protect the upper body, including the collar bone, upper arms, upper chest and back. Many shoulder pads also have detachable rib guards for extra protection.
  • Elbow pads - provides forearm and triceps protection against pucks in addition to a reinforced elbow cup. Elbow pads are vital for all hockey players. The pads can protect the elbow joint and arm bones from bruises and prevent fractures. The elbow pads cover the elbow joint and part of the upper and lower arms. Some elbow pads do have extensions that can cover the entire upper arm. The majority of elbow pads are adjustable and are secured with Velcro straps.
  • Hockey gloves - protects the hands; player's gloves are constructed with a very thin palm and fingers while providing substantially more padding to the outside of the hands; also reinforces the thumb to prevent it bending backwards.
  • Hockey pants - incorporates thigh, pelvic, hip and tailbone pads
  • Jockstrap or ladies' pelvic protector is extremely important for all athletes. The jock is a portable protective cup which is designed to protect the testicles against impact. The cup easily fits into a strap or some type of sports support. Some jock straps come with inbuilt garter belts so that one can wear long socks at the same time. Many companies now make jock straps which come together in one piece of equipment. [2]
  • Garter belt is a belt in which you attach to your jock to hold the pads and/or pants in place. Garter belts are often used by players to hold up hockey socks. A garter is simply an elastic band that goes around the waist and has several straps that go down to the front and back of the legs. At the end of each strap is a clip or a hook which attaches to the sock. The latest garters belts come with Velcro straps which makes it easier to attach the socks. [3]
  • Shin guards - incorporating a kneepad as well, the shin guard has a hard shell in front to protect against pucks, but usually has little or no protection on the calf. Shin guards can help protect the knee joint and the frontal bones of the leg. However, it is essential to buy proper shin guards. If the shin guard is too long it will slip down into the skate and prevent proper movement of the ankle; if the shin guard does not fit perfectly at the knee joint, then the patella will not be properly protected and lead to injury. There is a size scale for shin guards which most sports stores have available and which one can utilize to assess the right size.
  • Mouthguard - many variants exists from standard plastic guards to custom-moldable compounds that make speaking easier. Mouth guards. In the days past, many hockey players had the front teeth missing and this was because of the failure to protect the teeth from knock downs and fights. Today, most hockey players wear mouth guards to protect their oral cavity. The mouth piece can also soften blows to the face and prevent jaw fractures.
  • Ice skates - incorporate a rigid shell, often reinforced with metal mesh to prevent a skate blade cutting through. Unlike figure skates, hockey skates have a rounded heel and no toe picks as these can be dangerous in a "pile-up". Ice skates are essential for all hockey players. One should always try on a pair of hockey skates before buying them. Hockey skates come in many styles and sizes. The essential component of any skate is the interior boot, exterior holder and the attachable blade. Many skates also come with pads which provide protection to the ankle joint and toes.
  • Hockey stick - Made of wood or composite materials. Hockey sticks come in various styles and lengths. Stick dimensions vary based on the size of the player. The best ice hockey sticks are made from graphite and are manufactured with precise flex patterns that allows for more accuracy and power when hitting the puck. The two disadvantages of graphite sticks are cost and lack of durability.

Goaltending equipmentEdit

Main article: Ice hockey goaltending equipmentGoalies are allowed special variations on equipment, both to increase their chance of stopping pucks and for extra protection. They offer more protection from frontal impacts, while generally providing little or no protection to the goalie's back. This is because a goalie should always face the action and a hit on a non-padded area is generally a mistake on the part of the goalie.

  • Goal stick - incorporates a larger blade than player sticks as well as a widened flat shaft. Mostly used to block but the goalie can play the puck with it. Blade may be curved to help play the puck.
  • Goal skates - thicker blade with a larger blade radius and less ankle support allows a goalie to slide off his skates to make "pad stops" more easily. The boot is closer to the ice surface than a regular hockey skate to prevent pucks from slipping through the area between boot and skate blade.
  • Goalie mask or helmet and wire facemask. Masks are fitted to the player's face and can withstand multiple high-speed impacts from pucks. Most leagues including the NHL now require goalies to hang a throat protector (somewhat like a gorget in form and function) and/or wear a neck pad to protect against pucks and skate blades.
  • Chest and arm protector - more thickly padded in the front than a player's shoulder pads, also incorporating forearm, elbow and biceps protection. Protective area extends down to the abdomen and is usually tied onto the pants to provide seamless protection. Very little spine/back protection to save on weight and prevent heat buildup.
  • Blocker, worn on the hand that holds the stick. It is a glove with a square pad on the back, used to deflect shots. Modern innovations include a curved portion to better control deflected pucks and a specially shaped front portion to allow 'paddle down' saves where the stick is laid horizontally on the ice surface.
  • Catch glove, worn on the opposite hand, used to gather up the puck on the ice or catch a flying shot. A goalie may freeze play and force a faceoff by holding or trapping the puck in the catching glove.
  • Goal jock or jill - better pelvic protection and more padding in front of the cup than a player's jock. Provides lower abdomen protection and a larger/stronger cup.
  • Goal pants - incorporating thicker thigh padding and additional pelvic/hip protection, but reduced groin protection (this is mitigated by the jock and allows for increased flexibility)
  • Goal pads - thickly padded leg pads covering the top of the skate, the player's shin and the knees. Pads are 11" or 12" wide (recent NHL rule changes reduced the width of the pads) and sized to fit the individual player's legs. Most shots are blocked by some method of "pad stop".
  • Socks, covering the leg from the foot to just above the knee or above. Usually this is the only protection afforded to a goalie's calves, as the back of the cheaper model goal pads are simply a series of straps. Expensive goal pads do offer flexible flaps designed to protect the calf.

Normally the stick is held in the right hand with the blocker, and the catch glove is on the left. However, "full right" goalies reverse this, holding a right-hand curve stick in the left hand and catching with the right. This is largely personal preference, depending mostly on which hand the goalie is most comfortable catching with. The stick blade may be flat or curved to assist in playing the puck, depending on personal preference and stick handling style. The shaft of the stick blade may be slightly curved to assist in picking it up off the ice when dropped.

Facemask controversyEdit

Youth and college hockey players are required to wear a mask made from metal wire or transparent plastic attached to their helmet that protects their face during play. Professional and adult players may instead wear a visor that protects only their eyes, or no mask at all; however, some provincial and state legislation require full facial protection at all non-professional levels. Rules regarding visors and face masks are mildly controversial at professional levels. Some players feel that they interfere with their vision or breathing, or encourage carrying of the stick up high in a reckless manner, while others believe that they are a necessary safety precaution.

In fact, the adoption of safety equipment has been a gradual one at the North American professional level, where even helmets were not mandatory until the 1980s. The famous goalie, Jacques Plante, had to suffer a hard blow to the face with a flying puck in 1959 before he could persuade his coach to allow him to wear a protective goalie mask in play.

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