Shop Talk: Protective equipment – so what’s the right fit for me?
It’s time to talk about protective equipment – shin guards, shoulder pads, elbow pads and pants.
When deciding what to purchase, once you have either outgrown one of these pieces, are looking to replace one or more items, or if you’re just starting out with your first set of gear, there are three factors to look into: fit, protection and price.
My best advice is to make sure you are FITTED properly in store by an experienced hockey player and try on the gear. As an example, Bauer has three different fit families of their protective equipment – Vapor (tapered fit), Nexus (classic fit) and Supreme (anatomical fit). What do these terms mean? They mean that from one of these three fits, you should be able to get a piece of equipment that fits your body type and style of play.
Fit is the most important thing when choosing your protective gear. If your gear does not fit right, then you can get injured. You never want to purchase a piece of equipment that is too big just so your child has growing room. A good store associate will fit you correctly and get you as much room for growth as they can while still ensuring safety. An example of fitting is with shin pads, whether you wear them over the tongue of the skate or tuck them in. This usually means a size difference depending on which you prefer.
The second factor to look for is PROTECTION. Tell the sales associate, or better yet, he or she should ask you, what level of protection you are looking for. Be aware the more protective the items, usually the heavier and more expensive the piece of equipment is. These high-end models are sometimes overkill for a growing youth player or adult league player. The extra level of protection is not always needed at these levels. Added bulk can make it harder for you to maneuver. For older travel and high school players, you want to make sure they are properly protected. For those ages, we strongly suggest getting a good pair of shoulder pads. And for a newer adult player, we strongly suggest an upgrade in pants to the mid-level line. The first time you fall down you will see why.
The last factor is the PRICE. What price are you willing to pay? Obviously, the more protection, the higher the price. But the best bang for your buck usually comes in the mid-level gear. You are getting the best of both worlds in getting good protection at a good price. Quite often there is less price difference between the entry-level to mid-level and you end up getting much better quality and protection.
Bauer and CCM have great entry-level protective gear. It gets you in the sport with good fitting gear at really good prices. This is what we suggest for youth and younger players.
For adults I use the philosophy that it’s better to get what you want right the first time than having to buy an item multiple times. Assume that with these pieces of protective gear as an adult you are going to get 5-10 years out of it.
Buyer beware on online deals. The old motto applies – if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is. If a retailer has an older product, it is probably because it did not sell well and the fit and price were not what it needed to be. Plus, you can’t try anything on before you buy, and best of luck with returns or warranty issues. Many times, online sale items are marked “no returns on sale items.”
Support your local hockey shops at BTM or Coyotes Ice Sports and get fitted properly by knowledgeable hockey players.
See you on the ice!
Randy Exelby is the owner of Behind The Mask Hockey Shops.