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04/19/2017, 1:15pm EDT
By Predators


Spring is a good time to evaluate the size and effectiveness of your player’s equipment.  It’s surprising how much youth players grow over the course of a season.  Improperly sized equipment can create an unsafe situation that can lead to player injuries.


Did you know that helmets have an expiration date?   The Hockey Equipment Certification Council’s (HECC) mission is to seek out, evaluate, and select standards and testing procedures for hockey equipment.  All youth hockey helmets should have a HECC approved sticker on the rear of the helmet that contains an effective date that expires 6 ½ years after manufacture.  The expiration date it “to acknowledge that time and use may have an effect on the protective qualities of the helmet that would prevent it from continuing to meet the minimum standards for protection.”  Check the sticker on the back of your player’s helmet, make sure screws are tight, ear protection is in place, the helmet is in good general condition, and it fits properly.


Protective equipment should cover body parts and leave little exposed.  Gloves and shoulder pads should slightly overlap elbow pads.  Pants and shoulder pads should overlap.  Pants should overlap shin guards.  Skate tongue and shin guards should overlap each other.

Having the proper level of protection is critical.  A goalie’s mask suitable for an 8U player, will not provide adequate protection when that player reaches the 12U level where shots are harder, faster, and more unpredictable.


Skates should fit properly.  It is best to have them professionally sized at a reputable retailer.  Skates that are too large will allow the player’s foot to move inside the skate, causing blisters, and will not allow the player to skate as effectively.  Skates that are too small will cause discomfort and can be painful for the player.


Mouthpieces are required at the 12U age and older, and recommended for the 10U age and younger.


Neck guards are a good idea as they cover likely the only exposed body part.  Neck injuries are somewhat rare, but can be very severe.


Sticks are important.  Players will not be able to perform at their best without an appropriate stick.  Here are some factors to consider when buying a stick:

  1. Size.  Generally “youth” sticks are for players ages 4-8, “junior” sticks are for players ages 7-12, “intermediate” sticks are for players ages 10-15, and “senior” sticks are for players ages 14 and up.  Obviously, these ages overlap, indicating that there is no steadfast rule, but it is a good starting point.
  2. Length.  Sticks are expensive.  Many parents want to cut a stick a little longer so that their player can “grow into it.”  But doing this deprives your player from playing their best.  For youth players, a stick should come to the player’s chin when they are on skates, or to their nose in shoes.  As players get older, like into their teens, they may find a preference and more effectiveness in a slightly shorter or longer stick.  But it is best to start with the chin length until players develop a significant amount of skill and experience.
  3. Materials.  Sticks are composed of a variety of materials, including wood, fiberglass, carbon, graphite, and Kevlar.  Prices can range from $25 to $300.  A higher quality and more expensive stick will not make a difference for less experienced players.  Beginning players should stick with a wood stick.  As they gain experience, they can experiment with more expensive models.
  4. Flex.  Sticks can have a flex as low as 40 up to about 110.  Proper flex allows players to bend the stick without too much effort, providing that “snap” when they release a shot.
  5. Grip.  While sticks with a tacky surface can allow for more control of your stick, it is recommended that players use a smooth (non-grip) surface as it allows players to move their lower hand up and down the shaft of their stick.
  6. Curve.  As with all other aspects of a stick, it is best for beginning players to start with a more basic pattern, even a straight stick, until they become more experienced and learn their own preference.

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