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Youth Ice Hockey Equipment: Advice and Checklist

Laura is a longtime online writer. Her articles focus on everything from sports to gardening to cooking.

Hockey gear for kids

Hockey gear for kids

Hockey Equipment for Kids

Ice hockey is truly a fantastic team sport for kids. One of the most important steps in making it a positive experience for the youth player is to make sure they have the appropriate equipment and that it is accurately sized.

Hockey is a hard-core, physically demanding sport. All you have to do is observe the hard surfaces of ice with pucks flying at high speeds and body checking to realize that your child needs to be fully equipped with protective gear to lessen the risk of serious injury. Below, you'll find advice on how to purchase the following:

  • Helmet
  • Skates
  • Shoulder Pads, Shin Guards, and Elbow Pads
  • Hockey Sticks
  • Pants
  • Gloves
  • Undergarments
A youth hockey helmet.

A youth hockey helmet.

Selecting an Ice Hockey Helmet

The helmet is the most important piece of gear you can purchase for your child. Current research indicates concussions in prepubescent children can have longer-lasting effects, so make sure to get a well-fitting helmet. My favorite is the Mark Messer project by Cascade Sports. The company’s patented Seven Technology has been tested for maximum compression performance.

When purchasing a helmet, find one that fits snugly, but not so tight as to give a headache. There are several adjustments that can be made on a helmet that are not intuitive. Be sure to have a hockey gear expert assist you in obtaining the proper fit. You will also want your player to have a cage and a chin cup on the helmet to protect their face.

Don't Buy a Used Helmet

Also, once a player has incurred a concussion, the helmet should be replaced. A helmet can only absorb so many hits before it starts losing its effectiveness. Buying a used helmet is like buying a used car without Carfax or having a mechanic check it out. The bottom line is, don’t do it. There is no way to know how many times the helmet has already crashed into the boards.

Skates for ice hockey.

Skates for ice hockey.

Buying Youth Hockey Skates

The second most important piece of gear for new hockey kids is the skates. Along with the helmet, it is also one of the first pieces of equipment they will need to begin skating lessons. Once you have made the commitment to begin lessons or “rink rat” sessions, rental skates are not a good option. It is important to have a good pair of skates that provide the support new skaters need, as well as good blades that allow the kids to find their edges. Second-hand sporting stores are a good place to shop if you are confident in knowing how to obtain the proper fit.

Sizing Tips

Generally, hockey skates fit about a size smaller than shoes. Do not make the mistake of buying them too big. When trying on skates, your player should wear hockey socks or very thin socks. The heel should fit in the back of the skates without too much wiggle room. The widest part of the foot should feel snug without pinching. The front toe should have just a smidge of room (quarter inch) between the front of the skate.

Next, lace the skates up and stand up. Tap the heel to the back of the skate, and stand normal putting equal weight on both feet. If the toes hit the front, they are too small and you need to go up a size. The skate should feel snug, but comfortable. Wearing skates that do not fit properly or that apply excessive pressure on the heel bone is the main cause of Haglund’s Deformity or the Bauer Bump, a common issue with hockey players. If you are purchasing at a pro shop, the skates can be baked to fit your child’s foot like a glove.

Choosing Shoulder Pads, Shin Guards, and Elbow Pads

Shoulder pads, shin guards, and elbow pads are designed to provide protection in areas of high impact while maintaining optimal mobility. When players are young, you may be able to get two seasons out of this equipment. Once they become preteens, the growth is more rapid. When buying these items, keep in mind that your child will grow fast, so purchase items with a reasonable amount of growing room.

  • Shoulder Pads: If you have a defenseman, good shoulder pads are imperative. A player’s shoulder pads protect not only the shoulders but the chest and back as well. indicates you should check for gaps between the shoulder pads and the elbow pads when looking for a good fit.
  • Elbow Pads: Elbow pads provide necessary protection for the elbow and the rest of the lower arm. A player’s elbow pads should reach the top of the glove since that is an area likely to receive a slash.
  • Shin Guards: Shin guards protect the shins, knees, and sometimes the back of a player’s leg. recommends wearing shin guards that provide coverage to the top of the skate.

Shin guards, shoulder pads, and elbow pads are all sold with padding featuring Velcro strips. This is highly important when selecting equipment because it allows you to detach the pads from the gear for washing. See How to Get Rid of Hockey Equipment Smell for more information.

Hockey sticks.

Hockey sticks.

Sizing an Ice Hockey Stick

When sizing an ice hockey stick, the top of the stick should generally come between the player's nose and chin. The hockey stick is an extension of the player’s arm, so it is an important piece of equipment to have sized correctly. Most hockey sticks come in junior, intermediate, and senior size sticks, but they can all be trimmed so it is a custom fit. It is very difficult for a player to control an undersized or oversized stick, so the length of the stick must be correct for the player’s height.

Blade Angle

The angle of the blade portion of the stick is a personal preference. However, for new players, their dominant hand most often determines this. The strongest hand should go on top of the stick to give the player greater control in stick handling. The bottom hand determines which handed stick you are using (ex: left hand down means left-handed stick).


Another consideration when selecting an ice hockey stick is the flex. Younger players do not need to worry too much about this because they are still learning the fundamentals of shooting. Sticks have a flex rating of 40-110. The higher the number, the less flex in the stick. Most youth sticks are in the 40 range; intermediate 60-75 and the pros use 110+. Often players overestimate their strength and select too stiff of a stick. This affects their shooting ability because you need to have flex to whip the puck.

Purchasing Hockey Pants

Hockey pants protect the player’s tailbone, hips, thighs, ribs, and kidneys. Hockey pants should come to the top of the player’s knees in length. The color of the pants is usually determined by the league, so be sure to check out any requirements before purchasing.

Picking Out Youth Hockey Gloves

Enjoy these while they are new. They quickly become the smelliest piece of equipment you could ever imagine! Gloves should offer a combination of comfort and performance while protecting the skater from skate blades, pucks, and sticks. Gloves come in youth, junior and senior sizes. Like all hockey gear, it is best to try it on first before purchasing.

Glove Options

There are two basic types of gloves: a long cuff or a short cuff. The longer cuff offers more protection, but less mobility in the wrist. As far as materials, a synthetic leather and nylon combination is the best because it offers durability and is lighter and more breathable.

Don't Forget the Undergarments

Hockey players require a lot of special gear underneath their equipment, too. Long sleeve or short sleeve dry-fit shirts are good to wear under hockey jerseys.

  • For boys, hockey shorts with a built-in cup offer good protection.
  • For girls, a similar undergarment is also available to provide protection in the pelvic area.

Thin hockey socks are also needed.

Neck and Mouth Guards

Don’t forget a neck guard. It’s a small thing, but it's the only piece of equipment to protect against the blade of a skate coming in contact with a player’s neck. Lastly, mouth guards are a requirement for many hockey leagues. They come in various sizes and can even accommodate braces.

Ice Hockey Equipment Checklist

A Guide to Buying New vs. Used Hockey Equipment








Shoulder Pads



Hockey Pants



Shin Guards



Elbow Guards



Ice Hockey Skates (skate guards)






Neck Protector



Equipment Bag






Dry-fit undershirts



Undershorts (for boys and girls)



Hockey socks



Getting the Hockey Bug

Hockey Moms are a rare breed. They have to be able to survive all the early mornings, expensive equipment, freezing temperatures, and long seasons. It is the sparkle in the eye and the smile on their child's face that makes it all worth it. Once a child starts playing hockey they get hooked quickly. So go ahead and buy the gear. There's no doubt it will be a worthwhile investment.


nicolasbesch from French on June 26, 2012:

Excellent work for ice hockey to the sport. Good hub!

Simon from NJ, USA on May 06, 2012:

Very thorough advice - will be using this when my grandson is old enough!

Judi Brown from UK on May 05, 2012:

Excellent advice for newcomers to the sport. Good hub!

Voted up etc

Bev G from Wales, UK on May 05, 2012:

Expert advice. Thank you for the information.