Picture just two short years before, I’m standing in the very same aisle, hockey sticks on one side, hockey equipment on the other. Two kids, a toddler and thank all that is wonderful and good in the world, HockeyDad.
Now I pride myself on being independent. I’m a farm girl, we are hardy stock. But I totally pulled the helpless female card in the face of this new adventure and let HockeyDad handle the purchase.
Before we get into it, let me assure you that things aren’t as overwhelming as they first appeared to me. There are “starter” sets for hockey equipment. They come with the padding (shoulder, elbow and knee as well as hockey pants) that you need for your new hockey player. So start there.
Ok, with that done, you are best to start at the top. The helmet is necessary. If you’ve got kids like mine, they tend to lead with their heads. Not a good option when they are on the ice. Make sure the helmet isn’t going to move around a lot when it’s buckled on. Have them shake their heads no to see how much it moves. The good news is that most everything in terms of hockey equipment is adjustable, so a little loose can be corrected.
Next in line is the neck guard. In our area, it is a mandatory piece of equipment. No neck guard, no hockey. We made the mistake before of getting just the neck guard, which is absolutely fine and meets the requirements of the league. But your better option is to get the guard that has a bit of a bib to it. Not only does it provide a little more protection, but for the younger ones, it provides a little extra warmth around the neck.
So, helmet, neck guard, shoulder pads, elbow pads and hockey pants. Check.
Next is the jock or the jill. It’s not mandatory at the younger stages. And yes, the pants provide some protection which is great. But the nice thing about the jock, especially for the younger ones, is that they look like a pair of shorts with pieces of Velcro at the bottom. And this Velcro will save your sanity time and again because it holds up the hockey socks. Unless you are HockeyDad. He prefers to tape the hockey socks to the kid.
Speaking of hockey socks, ours have always been provided by the league. I don’t know if that is standard or not, but I would imagine that if yours doesn’t provide a pair or two of socks, you can purchase them as well.
Of all the equipment you want to be very sure the shin guards fit well. I’ve had more than one kid take a puck to the knee or a stick to the shin and go down because the guard had shifted and wasn’t providing the protection it should. So just double check that one before you leave the store. As for what to wear under the hockey gear, we always favor pyjama bottoms, especially for the super early mornings. I’ve also purchased a few pairs of base layer pants for my older players. I got lucky and found a decent option at Joe Fresh when I’m near a store.
Finally, we have the skates. By far the most expensive purchase, the wrong ones will result in many tears and frustration. And they aren’t easy to determine fit. In general, the size of your kids shoe will be the size of their skate, however you want to be able to stick a finger down the back of the skate when their foot is in it. That gives them enough space for an extra sock, or just for their foot to “settle” in to the skate a little.
A side note: Much like the jock or jill, a mouth guard is not mandatory equipment for the first few years. Helmets are required to have face cages, so the mouth guard is mostly unnecessary until the kids start shooting harder.
Also, is it just me, or does the idea of a face cage make anyone else a little claustrophobic?
Back to my point. Depending on your kid, the mouth guard may or may not be a fight worth having. I have one kid that refuses to keep the guard in his mouth and the other one could care less. We haven’t even attempted it with Boy #3 because we know he would freak. Custom fitted mouth guards are an option, and this limits the battle. If you don’t want to go that way, you can buy ones that you mold to your kids mouth yourself. Given how expensive teeth are, the sooner they get used to the mouth guard, the better.
All right, now that you have the hockey equipment that goes on the player, you need a hockey stick. I’ve addressed the whole which-way-do-they-shoot already. In terms of sizing, you are going to want to look at junior sticks. Even the junior ones will need cutting to fit your player. To measure size, if they are in their skates, you want the stick to be at their chin. If in their shoes, you want it to be at the tip of their nose. Cut to size and then tape the bejesus out of the top and blade of the stick.
TA DA. Hockey equipment.
One final point: the hockey bag. The starter sets come with a hockey bag, so until your kid figures out whether they are going to stick with hockey or not, that will suffice. Let me warn you, however, that you will be the one carrying it. It’s heavy and awkward and bigger than they are. For us, once they start in novice hockey, they get a new bag, with wheels that they can lug themselves. You can find these on sale for $60 or $75 a lot of the time, if you aren’t looking for anything fancy.
And for me, after spending all that money on the equipment, I’m not looking for anything fancy. It just needs to get the hockey bag out of my hands and into theirs.
Am I right?
See you at the rink.