The hockey community continually grows. As a result, there always are a lot of beginner players as well as beginner parents who have substantial problems with preparing kid hockey gear, especially for the younger age groups.
In this discussion, Puck Drawn Hockey will help these parents out by going through every step of the hockey gear preparation process, including what to look for, how to put the equipment on, what we should know when putting on gears, or helping kids putting on their gears.
Cup/Jock & Garter
The first thing we’re going to take a look at is the cup. The cup should be made out of good material like Spandex, so it would sit tight instead of bunching up, moving or shifting around underneath the other gears that the kids are wearing.
When it comes to layering equipment, there shouldn’t be too many layers if you want the kids to stay comfortable.
There’s lots of different models of cups, but you should look for the ones that have straps. When you turn these models inside out, you can see that there are straps sewn in a little bit separately.
Those straps will wrap around the legs to keep everything in place so the kids won’t get uncomfortable. Furthermore, the strap ensures that the cup is protecting the kid appropriately by preventing the cup from moving out of the way.
Lastly, a huge deal that makes a great cup is the velcro on the leg part. This is a mystery with new parents since they can’t figure out how the kids are supposed to keep their socks upright. Some parents even wrap layers of tape around the kid’s thighs.
We don’t recommend that at all because it’s uncomfortable. Just pick up one of these cups that have the velcro sewed right in, and so all you need to do is just slap the sock on top of the velcro, both on the front and the back and the socks will stay up well.
After the cups, the next thing you put on is the shin pads. For the shin pads to fit properly, the knee cap should be right in the center of the front cap part. And then, when the knee is appropriately placed in there, you would want a little bit of space between the top of the foot and the bottom of the shin pad.
An excellent way to test this is wearing the shin pad on and doing a skating style knee bend. So with the decent knee bend, you can see if the shin pad is staying in place and still got a little bit of space between the top of the foot and the shin pad because that’s where we want it to be.
One thing you have to notice is that not all shin pads are created equal in size. For example, even at first glance, you can see that a Reebok of size 8 is bigger than a CCM of the same size. What is interesting is that the kid can outgrow the Reebok 8″ shin pad quickly, and you will have to look for size 9.
And believe it or not, you won’t find size 9 in the youth section of Reebok because they only go up a bit of a jump by 9.5 and 10.5.
In this case, simply switch to the 8″ CCM, and it will fit your kid perfectly. So pay attention to the sizing of the specific brands that you’re using, and if you need to go a size bigger, sometimes just switch brands.
Another common question when it comes to shin pads is When do we need tape? And when do we not need tape? So, the straps vary across different shin pads. For example, the CCM has a relatively complex strapping system.
There could be a V strap or a combination of two straps with another one that goes underneath. Shin pad with that type of straps won’t move quickly.
However, you can see that some Reebok has just a single strap, so in the middle of a game, this one can rotate quite easily.
That minimal strapping system is excellent, but it’ll just mean you’ll need to tape it after you get the socks on top to keep it in place during the game activity. For the CCM, it doesn’t rotate very quickly, so when we’ve been using it, we don’t need tape on top.
The next thing that goes on is the socks. Most of the time, the socks that they give the young kids are going to be way too long, even go all the way up to the kid’s hip.
A lot of parents had issues with this as they put the sock on flat at the top, and then by the time it’s getting down to the bottom, it’s bunching and clunky.
We all know that the best is to have clean, fitting equipment, and we are going to show you how to do that.
What to do with socks that are too long for the youngsters is that, before you put it on the kid, take the sock and bunch it up to the top until your fingers are just kind of coming out the bottom.
Then, we loop it on the skate or the foot, and we make sure that the bottom of the shock is also right at the bottom of the shin pad.
Next, when we unroll, with the help of the velcro that we talked about earlier, whatever extra sock we have now is up at the top.
With this method, the sock itself fits nice and smooths down. With the velcro, the sock stays perfectly in place. It won’t be bunching up at the bottom, falling off, feeling loose, or flopping around.
The pants will cover all the bunching up at the top, and the rest of the sock is nice and smooth and ends right at the bottom of the shin pads, exactly where we want it to be.
Moreover, it gives the kid a much cleaner look along with a much cleaner experience since they’re not having to worry about their gear.
The next step in the process of hockey gear preparation is getting the pants on. Hockey pants are sometimes tricky to size. You must have seen a lot of kids that are wearing pants that are way too short for them.
The pants are considered too short when you’ve got a gap that you can start seeing the thigh underneath, between the top of the shin pad and the bottom of the pant.
Some kids will be between sizes, which means this size is too small for them, but the next one is too big. This is okay since pants are the type of gear that is a little bit of leeway.
It’s not going to kill the player if the sizing is a tiny bit off. However, if you start seeing an inch or two inches of gap as a player’s standing upright, those pants are too short.
The perfect fit for a hockey pant is about halfway over the kneecap, or just barely comes to the top of the kneecap. To test if the pants are fit or not, you can ask the kid to squat down.
The pants are too short when you can see his thighs exposed. If the legs are still covered, the kid still has protection there.
If your child is at the age of rapid height development, notice that if the pants are currently fit, you probably need to resize them soon. On the other hand, if the pants are presently a little bit longer, just wait for the child to grow an inch or two, and he or she will be perfect for the pants.
Read more: How to select a hockey elbow pad?
The next gear on our list is the skate. The reason behind this arrangement is that we found that it’s easier to do all your lower equipment first, so when you’re bending over to your tie your skates, your shoulder pads and elbow pads don’t get in the way.
Skate is one of those gears which you do need to have the right size, and this is a massive problem in youth hockey.
We’re seeing it all over the hockey pitch that parents are not getting the right size skates or getting skates that they think that the kids will grow into. It affects performance and affects the player’s ability to learn. Moreover, it affects the player’s ability to have fun with the game that you’re trying to get them to play.
Our first recommendation is that with skates, you should go to a skate shop that you trust for them to size you properly.
And if they try to advise you to get a size up so the kid can grow into it, go to a different skate shop. You should not believe in that philosophy, not with skates and sticks. We will discuss sticks in a bit later.
The second recommendation is not to buy skates at the end of the season. You never know how much your kid is going to grow during the summer, so buy skates right at the beginning of the season and buy them the right size.
Also, don’t get your hopes up that your kids are going to get more than one season out of those skates. That’s just how it is with skates, especially with growing young kids.
So the most crucial question is, how do we size skates? How should a right skate ought to feel? And what should it look like?
Generally speaking, you want to put the skate on and tap your heel back in the back of it. After you’ve done that, what we’re looking for is that the tip of your furthest toe forward should be able just barely to touch the front of the boot.
Usually, the skate is going to be about a size smaller than the kid’s shoe size. It’s not always the case; for example, for some kids, it could be about a size and a half smaller than their shoe size.
However, that’s kind of what we’re looking at for a general idea. The best thing to do is still go to a skate shop. They’re going to fit you, and they’re going to make sure the width is proper.
There’s a lot of methods for sizing skates properly at the skate shop. They could bake it for you afterward, which helps with breaking into skates.
What they do is to have a special oven that heats the skates to a specific temperature, and after that, they tie them back on your feet. As they’re cooling down, they mold into the shape of your foot. It’s much more comfortable to wear the skates that way.
If that step is annoying to you, that’s the one thing you can get away with when buying a skate online. One more good thing about online shopping for skate is most skate shops are going to charge you extra for the first sharpening as well as for baking them. However, at least go to the skate shop first, and make sure you’ve got the proper sizing.
The next thing you should know is that, do not have any tape on the shin pads just yet when putting the skate on. There’s a reason for that, and we will show you now. It’s good to tuck the tongues of the skates in. This may be a personal preference; some people may not like it.
However, with the youngsters, having just a clean look and a fresh feel is good. Sometimes with the tongues flopping around, they will get in the way of the kids when they’re trying to learn crossovers and similar techniques.
Next, we are going to show you how we like to tighten the skates. You should let the kid sit on a bench while you sit on your feet in front of him or her.
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First of all, make sure the laces are where they need to be. Then, the second step we do is to tuck in the tongue. We also loop the back of the sock behind the end of the skate, so by the time it’s all done, it’s going to be in close with your foot in.
Next, jam the skate into your stomach to keep it pushed in. As we are tightening, usually what we do is to go snug at the bottom, but we do not crank it down too much at the bottom, and we go a little bit tighter as we get a little bit higher.
With the kids who are becoming more experienced players, we leave the top eyelid undone on their skates. The reason is that at the point where their ankle strength has improved and is strong enough, doing that will allow them to have a deeper knee bend, as well as a better toe snap at the end of each stride. More flexibility in the ankle also enables the potential of higher speed.
For skates that are a little bit new, it tends to be more challenging to get them tight enough. A lot of times, you will see the mom drop the kids off the rink, and the kids are trying to tighten their skates.
Most kids of 9 or 10 years old are going to be capable of tying their skates tight enough for it to be a proper fit. Some moms also do a great job getting skates tight enough.
However, most moms do not have strong enough hands to make it as tight as they need to be, so there’s no shame to ask one of the coaches to help get the kid’s skates tight enough.
Maybe you’ve heard of the term ankle bender where the kids are out there, and their ankles are tipped in because their ankles aren’t strong enough, and their skates aren’t tight enough.
They’re not getting the proper support, so they’re bending in, or sometimes they’re bending out. Believe us. You don’t want to see that.
However, even the beginner skaters, if you get the skates fitting tight and adequately enough up to the ankles, they will be able to at least keep their skates relatively straight on the ice.
The worst combo is when you see a kid with new and too big skates, and the parents didn’t get them tight enough. When these kids are out on the hockey pitch, it looks like they’re skating in canoes.
They’ve got these huge skates that aren’t their size, plus they’re not tight enough so they’re flopping all over the place and the ankles are bending.
The kids can’t learn to skate like that, so get the right size, make sure that they’re tight enough, and the kids will have a much better experience.
Tape & Shoulder Pads
With the skates on, next, we can put on the tape. The tapes help keep the shin pads in place during the game, so they’re not going to rotate around on your spin, or get out of position and leave you vulnerable for a shot or a stick to hit you. If you’re a fan of minimalism, just do a simple zigzag: one strap across the top, just underneath the kneecap, and then we just bring it down lower than the first one.
The next gear is going to be the shoulder pads. There’s a common misconception that hockey shoulder pads need to be as big as football shoulder pads, especially in inexperienced hockey towns. We have seen numerous parents buying for their kids these large shoulder pads.
So there are two problems with that. First, you’re not hitting or being hit, so what shoulder pad is about is just protection from sticks or some shots. At this age, the shots aren’t that strong, so we just want enough protection, but not too much. We want to have mobility as our main thing.
So what shoulder pads can and should fit like? There is a quick field test you can use to find out. So, ask the kids to touch their hands above their heads. If they’ve got bulky shoulder pads that are unnecessarily big, they won’t be able to reach their hands above their heads.
Some shoulder pads are designed with a snug, which is good because they’re not cranked down so tight. That is also one of the crucial things with hockey equipment. In general, you want it to fit well, but you don’t want it to be so tight.
However, some kids tend to like things tight. So make sure you get a harmony between the kid’s wishes, reasonable protection, and mobility when it comes to shoulder pads.
Read more: The differences between Bauer and Ccm
After the shoulder pads comes the elbow pads. Elbow pad is another gear that is tough to size and sizing without actually trying it. Most of the time, parents guess the size wrong. For example, one company’s youth extra small may be way bigger than another company’s youth extra small, so it can be tough to guess.
But sizing is not the only problem. A ton of parents don’t know how the elbow pad should be put on. Here and there, you can see them upside down, or you see them on the wrong arms.
So here’s how they should fit well. First of all, most elbow pads will say which arm they should go on, on the inside or outside, so that should be your first clue.
Also, most double pads have pieces of forearm protection, so just remember that goes to the outside forearm protection. That’s how you know which end is top and which purpose is bottom and which arm it should go on.
Sometimes, the elbow pads you got for the kids turned out to be way too big. The elbow pads themselves fit okay in terms of the size, the height, and everything, but the strap can be a little too loose, for example.
So you need to get the kid in the gym to get a little bit more bicep curls, so these straps have hit him or her better. Just kidding, so what you can do is that we just take some tape and we tape around the elbow pads’s bottom.
Only one strip and the elbow pads will stay the right tightness for the kid. Elbow pad is tricky to size, so that’s a little trick you can do with it. Now let’s move on to the jersey.
There’s not too much detail to talk about with jerseys. The only thing that sometimes comes up is with the tiny guys, the jersey is just too big. If the jersey is a little long in the sleeves, that’s no big deal. Usually, you can just put the gloves on, and they will keep the sleeves under control. If it’s awful, you may need to roll them up once or twice and then put the glove on, and then the gloves will keep everything intact.
If the jersey is hanging down to the kid’s knees, that’s going to get in the way of their skating. At that point, you would want to do the Gretzky tuck on one side.
You can tuck it in, and that keeps it bunched up, keeps it out of the way of the player so that way they’re not tripping on their jersey because that happens.
You must have seen some of these tiny guys, at four-year-olds or even younger, sometimes out there skating and with the jersey dangling down that low that they get in the way of skating.
Helmet & Gloves
With helmets, first of all, make sure that it fits, and fits comfortably. Sometimes the helmets look fit, but they can be a little narrow or pinches on the sides.
For these cases, you can adjust front to back by opening up the screws. If the helmet is not fit, it can lead to headaches and other problems that make the player uncomfortable and distracting during the games.
For little kids, you can find single piece helmets, which look like a regular helmet, but they’re not adjustable. That is the smallest helmet you could find. The way that you adjust these types of helmets is there’s additional padding that you can put on the inside of the helmets.
With the younger players, that’s probably the way that you always need to do because even the smallest helmets won’t fit the younger players. So you should pick up one of these single piece helmets and add a few additional layers of padding on the inside.
When you turn to the side of the helmet, you can see the J Clips. With rented gear or second-hand gear, sometimes they’ll be missing the J Clips. With the J Clips off, the smash doesn’t sit properly. The facemask is perfectly fit when the kid’s chin is in the chin cup.
When the kid falls or gets hit underneath the chin, his or her chin will take some of the impact, but most of the impact comes into the J Clips, so that’s what helps it all stay intact. You should also obviously make sure that you have the straps done up.
Also, most youth hockey programs require earpieces while older different leagues have different requirements on whether or not that’s mandatory. However, for the young ages, you got to have the ear guards in the helmet as well. Single piece helmets often have the ear covers built-in, which is good.
To make sure all those pieces are intact, sometimes there are screws that we need to tighten. Thus, it’s good to keep a little toolbox or at least a screwdriver in your bag. As a parent, make sure the kids aren’t missing screws and make sure everything’s looking safe before they get on the ice.
Alright, the last thing before the stick is we put the gloves on. For the older years, coaches usually recommend that we take the high cuff gloves – the type of glove that goes all the way up.
Protection-wise that is good. However, these high cuff gloves sometimes hinder the stickhandling for young kids. If you want to avoid that, pick gloves that fit around the wrist.
Also, make sure that the players can open and close their hands on the gloves. You don’t want to have gloves that are so big and so thick that the players can’t control their hands.
So, make sure that they can move their wrists and make sure they can open and close their hands and fingers. The truth is most gloves out there are pretty good these days. It comes down to a matter of personal preference, and which models feel comfortable for the player, and whether or not they can move in them.
Last but not least, let’s discuss the stick length. This is the one that just drives couches nuts. If you are a coach and you see a kid on your team with the wrong size stick, take them right there on the spot, get permission from the parents, and cut the stick down.
You have to have the right size stick for your players to be able to function with the puck, especially if the kid is trying to learn how to play the sport.
A lot of parents or even some pro shops make a recommendation to leave the stick too long and then let the kid grow into it. Well, we disagree with that philosophy.
We want the stick to be functional, it’s the same with skates. So cut it to the right size, and cut it at the beginning of the season. Don’t cut down a brand new stick at the end of a season, because children grow over the summer and then it doesn’t work for them anymore in the next season.
Cut at the beginning of the season and let them use it without planning on getting more than one season out of the stick.
Moreover, at this age and with sticks these days, they usually fall apart or break before the kids end up growing into them anyways. So there’s no sense in saving inches for the kid to grow into, because the stick will be unusable before it gets there.
Read more: How to select a goalie stick?
So, how tall should a stick be? There are a few different guidelines, but the simplest and safest one is getting it as tall as the player’s chin when they’re on skates.
You can either have them go on their tippy-toes and still put it on their chin, or have them stand flat and cut out their nose.
Without the right stick length, the kids can’t handle the puck properly. However, when the players are well-established and experienced, or maybe they’re defensemen, they want to have a little bit longer stick so they can have some more leverage on their slap shot from the point, and have a little bit more reach on their puck check.
But that is a situation where you know that the player is very well-experienced, seasoned, and understands the pros and cons of having a little bit too long a stick. Then, they can make that decision. As for children from six to eight year olds or even a little bit older, you make that decision for them, and you cut the stick to a length that they can still function with it.
Those are all of our tips about kid hockey gear. We’ve shown you every step of the way from equipment recommendations, how equipment should fit, and which types of equipment you should be looking for.
The final result should be that the kids are comfortable in their gear while being able to function and focus on the skills that they’re learning instead of whether their equipment is hurting their feet or falling off their legs or if they got a sock falling.
If their gears are fitting right, your children are safe, and you don’t have to be worried about them hurting themselves or about comfort. Hockey will be a lot more fun, and their experience with hockey will be a lot more long-lasting.