Ice Hockey Equipment for Youth

You Need a Bigger Car

My 11-year-old son is 5′ 2″ tall; his hockey bag is 5’ 3” – and, completely packed!  It probably weighs about as much as he does and certainly is wider than him.  If you are taking more than one child to hockey practice (carpooling is a great thing) you’ll need a bigger car.  Really.

There’s a fair amount of hockey equipment that’s required for your child to play safe and secure on the ice.  I could probably write an article about each piece of equipment (good idea), but for today, I want to give you a general sense of what’s needed and what order to dress the equipment on your player.

Hockey Equipment

HelmetHelmet with cage

A helmet is very important, you need to protect your melon. Believe me, when you’re learning to play you will fall, so get a good quality helmet!  Be sure it’s CSA approved.  This is one piece of equipment I would highly recommend buying new.  You want to be certain there are no minor cracks that would jeopardize the integrity of protection.

Visor, Cage or no cage?

You COULD just buy a helmet and that’s it, however I recommend a full cage (it will make your dentist happy).  Most Youth Leagues require a full cage.  Your options are

  • Just a helmet
  • Helmet with a visor
  • Helmet with a full cage (my recommendation and often required)
  • Or a helmet with the cage visor combo


Neck Guard – Optional

The neck guard protects your neck. There is an off chance that a skate blade could make contact with the neck, and that would not be pretty.

I will be completely honest, most people I’ve talked with and most players I see have yet to see a neck-related injury, however, it could happen. As a newer player I would suggest starting with one, just to be on the safe side.


Shoulder Padsshoulder-pads-hockey

Most youth leagues are non-contact, at least up to Bantam, and many do not allow slapshots.  So, you may think “why wear shoulder pads?”  Here’s something that you can count on – new players fall.  The pads help protect the upper body from all aspects of play.  The reason most youth leagues require them.


Elbow Pads

Again,  when you are learning to skate you will fall a few times, (see the running theme here) and usually, when your feet fly out from under you, your elbows take the brunt of the fall. A good set of elbow pads will make it much easier to get up and keep practicing.



I’m a big fan of gloves, they need to be comfortable and flexible. Everyone has their own personal preference when picking out gloves, some want more protection (mostly from hacks and slashes from other players) and others want a lot of freedom.

When picking a set of gloves I have a simple test if I can give a thumbs up they should be flexible enough.


Hockey Pants

The pants protect you from the knees up to the lower back. A good fitting pair is important because if you get a pair that is too big they will always be sagging and hanging from the hips, and if you get a small pair you will look like a newborn baby giraffe (plus you will have some vulnerable exposed areas that are not fun to get hit in).


Shin GuardIce hockey shin guards

The right sized shin pads are important, of all the painful areas to get hit, the most common spot is right where the shin pad meets the skate. If your shin pads are too small this area will be bigger and will get hit with pucks.  The shin guard should come down below the tongue of the skate.  When determining length, always try on shin guards while wearing skates to ensure the correct size.



I wrote about skates last week – you can see the post here.



As far as I know, mouth guards are optional at the beginner level hockey leagues.  A Mouthguard helps protect against concussions.  They absorb impact energy to reduce the force transferred to the brain.  I know most kids don’t like the feeling, but getting them used to it from a young age is definitely worth the effort.


Practice Jersey

Having a practice jersey (and maybe more) is important to keep all of the equipment in place.  Plus it makes your young player feel like a real star on the ice.  To make things easy for everyone get one white, and one black jersey, yes it’s boring but it makes it easy to split teams when they play pick-up hockey. (aka shinny, stick and puck, drop-in, and rat hockey)

You can get a cheapo practice jersey from your local sports store, order one online, browse eBay for a cool used hockey jersey (maybe from your favorite NHL team or an old Olympic jersey) or get a novelty jersey from Geeky Jerseys


Jock/Jill Strap

Jocks are important, they protect the important parts and also keep your hockey socks up.  The new style compression shorts with the Velcro are excellent and convenient.


Hockey SocksIce hockey socks

Hockey socks are there to keep the legs warm, keep shin pads in place, and provide a little extra protection against hacks, slashes and skate blades.  Your child may get a pair (or need to purchase) to match their team, but it’s a good idea to have a spare to keep cycling through the wash.


Hockey Bag

This is what you cart all this equipment around in.  There are a variety of sizes and shapes available.  Some bags come with lots of pockets, some bags don’t have any.  Personally, I like the bag to have a few compartments to keep stuff organized.

Wheels or no wheelsIce hockey bag

A bag with wheels is heavier, bulkier, and it’s hard to stuff into your trunk.  However, if you don’t want to be a hockey mule, wheels make it easier for your child to be responsible for their own stuff.  Here’s a great bag from GRIT


Hockey Sticks

A hockey stick is important, your player will soon form a bond with their stick, they will love it and enjoy taping it, flexing it…looking at it, but it doesn’t have to cost you $300!

For new hockey players, I recommend an affordable stick, heck even start with a wood stick.   A good carpenter can’t blame his tools, and a $300 stick won’t make them any better.  They will score just as many goals with a wood Sher-wood 5030 as they will with the newest Easton Carbon fiber puck destroyer 9000.  You’ll also need some stick tape (I wrote about that process already).

Odds and Ends

Hockey Tape – You’ll need this for wrapping your stick and keeping your shin guards in place.  White or black is fine.  

Cotton Socks – To wear in your skates.  Comfy and not too thick.  Should be the socks you wear when trying on and buying your skates.

Dryfit Long Underwear – Keeps them warm on the ice.  Wicks away sweat.

A few other things to throw in the bag:  Water Bottle, Skate Laces, Snacks, Skate Guards and cloth to wipe down your skates after ice time (prevents rust).


How to Dress Your Young Hockey Star

  1. I like to start with a comfy pair of cotton socks that are higher than the skates.  Also, wear Dryfit long underwear that absorbs sweats.
  2. Put on the jock.  (Jock shorts with Velcro).
  3. Put on the shin guards, Left and Right.
  4. Pull the hockey socks over the shin guards, attaching the Velcro of the sock to the Velcro of the jock.  Some socks may not have velcro on the tops, but the velcro on the shorts will stick firmly to the sock.
  5. In this order, put on your Hockey pants, skates, shoulder pads, neck guard, elbow pads and jersey.
  6. Wrap some tape around the hockey socks. It should be above and below the calf muscle.  For my 11-year-old, I only apply it above his calf.  Once around with a few inch overlap is sufficient. It should not be very tight.  Just enough to keep the shin guards in place.  It’s painful if the shin guard rotates a little and your knee hits the ice directly.
  7. Put on the helmet with full cage protection and grab the stick, you’re ready to go.

Where to Buy all this Stuff

If you have a good local hockey shop nearby, that’s a good place to start.  If you live in an area where hockey isn’t very popular you can try looking online.  Some good online stores include

Hockey Monkey
Pro Hockey Life (For Canadians)
Pure Hockey
Total Hockey


Check their clearance and discount sections to find good deals! Also when buying online make sure you know the return policy so you can return items if they don’t fit properly.

Another good resource is your local ice rink.  If they have a youth hockey program, they probably have a trade-in program to help support young players (and parents wallets).  Kids outgrow equipment quickly, so buying new equipment every six months doesn’t always make the most sense.  Your local ice rink may have a back room dedicated to swapping and trading equipment.  You can usually find good stuff with limited wear that can be perfect for your child’s current needs.

Another resource is reseller shops.  This could either be a store such as Play It Again Sports or an online store like Ebay or CraigsList.  You’ll just need to to do your homework and have a good idea of what you’re looking for and price range. We bought our son’s first pair of skates and most of his equipment at Play It Again Sports and they work great – good quality, great price and he’ll probably outgrow them in six months and I can still recoup 40% of our initial outlay.

How much will a full set of hockey equipment cost?

For a full set of hockey equipment, you have a few options

  • All new – $400 – $1000 depending on what sales you find
  • New and Used – $200 – $400
  • Mostly all used – $100 – $200

You can save quite a bit buying used equipment, or not buying it all at once.  Stuff like pants, shin pads, elbow pads and skates don’t need to be bought brand new, especially if you are just starting.

Your skates should cost you the most, then probably your helmet and gloves.

And, budget now for that larger car.


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