Equipment topics contained on this page include:
Hockey Socks and Stirrups
Even good skates don’t work well if they are not sharp. To play well you need to keep your equipment in good shape. The most critical maintenance task is keeping your skates sharp. Sharp skates minimize the amount of energy you need to accelerate and allows you to stop and change directions quickly.
Skates are sharpened in a two step process. First, a curved groove is cut longitudinally into the blade (Figure 3-2). Each skate manufacturer has a specific recommendation regarding the depth and shape of this cut. The next step is to remove the burrs on the outside edges of the blade with a flat grinding stone (see Figures below.) This must be done carefully and the stone placed perfectly parallel to the blade during this process or the “sharpness” of the blade may be compromised.
First Step – groove is cut longitudinally
Skates can also be sharpened in a manner that is known as “rockering”. The blade is shaped so that a minimal amount of blade actually touches the ice. Rockering allows the skater to turn very quickly. Rockering is only useful if you are a highly skilled, and conditioned player. Most recreational players are better served by the standard skate blade because it provides better stability.
Skates can be sharpened by retail merchants, vending machines, or by the skater themselves. If you have your skates sharpened by a retail merchant, make sure they have experience and volume in skate sharpening. A hockey retailer or at least a figure skating/hockey store is recommended.
Some ice rinks have vending machines that sharpen skates. These machines do an adequate job if they are properly maintained are kept clean. If you use a machine regularly, you should check to make sure that your skates are consistently sharpened.
Another option is to sharpen your skates yourself. A number of vendors supply hand sharpening kits that are easy to use. The kits include a grinding stone for the initial groove and another stone for removing the burrs. The grinding stones are designed to each specific blade manufacturer and have guides to make sure you are properly aligned as you grind the groove. If used frequently, these hand held systems will keep your blades very sharp.
Recently I had my skates sharpened at a hardware store that claimed they sharpened skates. It was a big mistake. I ended up with an outside edge on my right skate that was substantially higher than the inside edge. My skates “chattered” every time I tried to stop. – Mark
Socks and Stirrups
Sock stirrups were probably intended to keep your socks down over your shin pads. Using the stirrups can cause unnecessary tension on the garter straps and places extra fabric between your feet and the bottom of your skates. This can be uncomfortable and interfere with the feel of your foot against the skate. Cut them off. Unfortunately, some players allow them to hang off the back of their skates, which could prove to be dangerous. Some hockey sock manufacturers have stopped including stirrups on their socks. Hockey socks stay down fine with tape or Velcro hockey straps.
The garter belt is used to keep up your hockey socks. They seem odd, especially for men–but they work well. Rubber bands (thick ones) tend to cut off circulation around your thigh. White or black—it’s your choice. Another option is underwear specifically designed for hockey. These shorts include a slot for a cup or pelvic protector. They also have Velcro on the front and back bottom of each leg to attach your hockey socks.
Jerseys are either light or heavy weight. In many leagues they are issued by the league.. The lighter jerseys are nice when the rink is warm. However, the heavy duty jerseys last longer, are not prone to ripping and are comfortable when the rink is really cold. Proper size is important. If your jersey is too small, it may be too confining and uncomfortable. If your jersey is too large, it gives defensive players something they can easily grab out of the referee’s view.
Consider wearing a shirt under your jersey. Wear a shirt (a loose fitting T-shirt – maybe with a hockey logo on it) under your shoulder pads and jerseys. A shirt keeps you warmer and absorbs body sweat which can damage your shoulder pads.
Bigger is better than smaller for hockey gloves. Gloves not only provide protection from sticks, boards or pucks, but they are helpful in absorbing the shock of your stick when you shoot a slap shot. Small fitting gloves look silly and provide less protection to your forearms. Part of the safety features of hockey gloves is the thumb protection. The thumb area is armored and fixed in position which helps protect it from sprains and breakage. Most hockey gloves are essentially the same in construction and function. One significant difference between gloves is the length of the cuff which extends from the wrist. Forwards sometimes prefer a shorter cuff which gives them greater flexibility in wrist movement. Defensive players prefer a longer cuff which provides maximum protection, especially when blocking shots.
Keep your gloves and other equipment in good repair. Hockey gloves tend to wear out more than other equipment. Wear will occur in the palm and finger areas. A leather shop or shoe repair store can re-palm (sew new leather or a patch in the worn area) your gloves.
A whole variety of bags are used by hockey players to carry and store their hockey equipment. The best is the “Hockey Locker.” This bag is huge. It has separate zippered pockets for your skates and a huge central area for most of your equipment. It also includes a Velcro pocket for your tape, straps and other loose equipment.
Choose a bag with pockets to help separate your equipment. If you consistently put items in the same place in your bag, you will be less likely to forget equipment at home. Make sure the bag has a strap so you can carry it on your shoulder (some cheaper bags omit this essential item.)
Every team should have at least one first aid kit with plenty of band aids, butterfly bandages, and gauze. The first aid kit should include a few plastic storage bags for ice. If a player is injured and needs an ice pack, the plastic bag can be filled with “Zamboni” ice and applied to the injured area.
An assortment of snaps, clips for your helmet are good to keep in the hockey bag. Collect them and keep them in a zip lock bag. Black and white tape can also stored in a zip lock bag. A pen and 4 x 6 index cards can be helpful. If you want to be really organized you bring a set of water bottles which can be purchased at a sports store. They usually come in a nice carrying case as well.
Ice hockey uses the familiar black rubber puck. They cost about a dollar and work best if they are frozen before a game. There is less bounce and they stay on a player’s stick better. Put your team’s pucks into a small cooler with some water (not much) and freeze them. Obviously if you live in a cold climate, during the winter the pucks can be left in the garage or the trunk of a car and they freeze well. I’d have a puck bag or box. Purchase a dozen pucks and tell your teammates to be watchful and observe how your team collection will grow. Ice hockey pucks cost about $1 a piece. It is a waste of money to ignore a puck that is shot out of the rink and abandoned. Walk down to that spot after a game and pick it up. Everyone has a responsibility to recover pucks during pre-game warm-ups rather than allowing your opponents to add to their puck collection.
The stick is so named because it originally and exclusively was made of wood. It is a tool that is used for both offensive and defensive purposes. At one time its blade was straight and it could be used by a player who shoots left (on the left side) or right (with left hand on the top and right hand on the bottom of the shaft from the player’s right side.) Today it is difficult to find a straight blade. Sticks are “pre-curved” to the left or right.
The hockey stick is an extension of the hockey player’s arm. This means the stick has to fit properly, and the length, curve and lie angle need to match both your size and body type as well as the type of game you play. Sticks are either made of wood or composite material.
The shaft you choose is largely a matter of personal choice. Shafts come in many different materials for sticks with different weights and durability.
These are traditional sticks and are usually less expensive than modern composite sticks. One advantage is that you are able to fine tune your stick by cutting or sanding it to make it more comfortable. However, wood sticks break more easily and are heavier and tend to be stiffer than other materials. Wood sticks are the best for beginners until they have good idea of what they want. (And if you lose one it won’t cost as much to replace!)
Modern shafts come in all sorts of materials, including fiberglass, aluminum, carbon-graphite, kevlar and titanium. The blades are usually still made of wood and are attached to the composite stick with glue. These materials make for a lighter stick, but are generally more expensive than wood.
Fiberglass sticks have a wooden core and are wrapped/reinforced with a fiberglass outer coating. They are the least expensive type of composite sticks. However, their wooden core makes them somewhat heavy and they are not as strong as other types of composite sticks.
The shaft of this stick is formed entirely of aluminum are relatively inexpensive. They are also considered strong, but not as strong as kevlar and titanium. Compared to other composite sticks they are considered heavy but are still much lighter than wood and fiberglass. Aluminum sticks use replaceable blades.
Graphite can be used many ways in stick construction. It can be used to coat or reinforce a wooden core; it is sometimes mixed with kevlar to form the shaft; and it can also be used entirely on its own. Graphite is more expensive than fiberglass and aluminum, but less expensive than kevlar and titanium. Graphite sticks are considered strong and lightweight and they use replaceable blades.
Kevlar is often mixed with graphite to form the shaft of a stick, but it can also be used on its own. Kevlar sticks are one of the most expensive but also one of the strongest and most lightweight sticks. They also use replaceable blades.
These sticks are usually made with an all-titanium construction. They are very expensive and are similar in price to Kevlar. They are one of the strongest and most lightweight sticks, again similar to kevlar. You must use a torch for blade insertion.
Blades are usually made of wood and attached to the composite stick with glue. Some blades have Kevlar wraps on them. Hockey sticks are identified as “left,” “right,” or “straight.” This refers to the curve of the blade. You should buy a stick that has the blade angled so that the puck is on the forehand during shooting .A curved blade allows you to lift the puck and put spin on it but makes it more difficult to shoot or pass backhand. A blade with a smaller curve gives you lower shots and better control. Players just starting to learn the game should choose a blade with a lesser curve. A curved blade may inhibit backhand passing or shooting.
The NHL once allowed any curve in a stick giving rise to so called “banana sticks” which were up to 2 inches in curve. When a slap shot was hit with one of these sticks it would “knuckleball” and no would no where it was going – even the shooter. You can measure your stick by sliding a dime under it on a flat surface. If the dime slides easily under the stick it has too much curve.
The lie is the angle between the blade and the shaft and the lie number is printed on the front of the stick’s shaft and and ranges from 4 to 8.
The higher the number, the narrower the angle between the blade and the shaft. The smaller the number, the wider the angle. For example, a lie 4 stick has a wide handle-to-blade angle, while a lie 8 has a smaller angle. As a rule, lower lie angle sticks are used for players who skate low to the ice and carry the puck out in front of them. Lies 7 and 8 are for players who skate upright and carry the puck close to their skates
- One way to determine if you have the proper lie is to examine your old stick
- If the blade is worn on the toe, you should try a higher lie
- If your stick is worn on the heel, you should try a lower lie
- If the blade wears evenly, you are using the correct lie
The stiffness, or flex, of a stick’s shaft is important in determining control and performance. Most stick shafts come in flexes of medium (85 stiffness), stiff measurement, or extra stiff (up to 110 stiff.) Beginning players should look for a light stick with a medium stiffness rating. Bigger, stronger players should choose a stick with a stiffer flex which will increase the velocity of their shot. Defensemen should choose a stiffer, heavier stick, while forwards should choose a lighter, more flexible shaft.
Goalie sticks are larger and heavier than regular sticks and are always made of wood . Goalie sticks have wider blades, which can extend 24 inches up the shaft. The blade of a goalie stick can be 3 1/2 inches wide and up to 15 1/2 inches in length. Most goalies use a lie from 11 to 15. A higher lie stick is usually used by a stand-up goalie. In choosing the length of a goalie stick, remember not to buy one that is too short. The shaft can always be cut down if it seems too long, or you can choke up on the shaft to make it easier to handle
Wood, Metal or Composite
Wooden, metal or composite sticks are an individual choice. Wooden sticks break more easily and are heavier but they are also less expensive. Metal sticks are made of aluminum or a composite materials; they are lighter, and more expensive than wooden sticks. The blades are made of wood and frequently cost as much as a wooden stick. Stick blades can be replaced on metal or composite sticks by heating the shaft at the end of the stick and removing the blade.
Both wooden and metal sticks come in different lies and with different flexibility characteristics. Sticks range in flexibility from medium to extra stiff. The adult player is better off at the flexible end of this spectrum as it make hitting an effective slap shot much easier. This is because the flex of the stick will allow more margin for error in striking the ice behind the puck and the stick “whip” will propel the puck with minimal effort. However, if you have a lot of upper body strength a stiffer stick will allow you to hit the slap shot with much more velocity.
Whatever stick you purchase; metal or wooden, whatever lie or flexibility, the key to successful stick handling, passing, and skating is the proper length of the stick. A hockey stick standing on the toe of its blade with the stick perpendicular to your body should extend to just at your chin in your bare feet or approximately three inches below your chin with your skates on.
Proper stick length is very important. The beginning adult player intuitively believes that a longer stick is better because it helps extend your reach in poke-checking or catching a pass. Although a long stick can do that, improper stick length will severely hinder your ability to stick handle, to pass and to shoot. An improperly long stick will effectively enhance your ability to poke-check and play defense–but it will limit your ability to improve other aspects of your defensive game like skating and body positioning.
Every player has their own method for taping their stick. Here is our favorite method. Start at the top of the handle. Stick the end of the tape roll on the top of the shaft. Then unwind approximately eighteen inches of tape and then spin the tape roll so that it causes the unwound tape to tighten and for a “rope”. Starting at the top wind the “rope” around the shaft of the stick down as far as you like it. This “rope” will provide the grip on the stick shaft. When you get down to the point on the stick shaft where you want to end, then wind tape off the roll over the “rope” all the way back to the top of the shaft. At the top of the shaft create a knob by wrapping tape around the top of the shaft. Make it thick enough so that you can pick up you stick if it is dropped but not too thick that it interferes with stick handling.
Taping the stick blade is also one of personal preference. Some players insist on putting little to no tape on their stick blade. Others tape the entire blade. The old school says to tape your blade black so that the goaltender cannot see the puck coming off the offensive players stick as easily. Other players like white and some player’s now choose their team colors or one of the florescent colors available.
Start at the heel of the stick and work toward the toe. Overlap the tape at the edge. When you get to the end of the stick blade tear the tape off at a point were it will stick flat against the tape on the blade. Some players will “rub down” the tape using a hockey puck. Others use “stick wax” which they claim helps them to grip the puck better and keeps water off the blade.
The most common types of tape available are cloth tape and friction tape. Friction tape is sticky on both sides. Iit grips the puck a bit better for puck control. A new tape is now available for ice hockey sticks that is rubber with a gripping texture. The manufacturer claims that it lasts longer than regular hockey tape because it resists water and that it grips better than regular tape.
Hockey sticks are like tennis rackets and golf clubs – the technology is always changing with new products on the market every year. Spend a little time in your local hockey shop talking to the staff to see if you should upgrade your stick.
Purchase and use tape designed for hockey. Plastic electrical tape does assist in gripping the puck. A few years ago we had several physicians on our hockey team who brought first aid tape from the hospital and used it on everything. Interesting look but not very effective. – Mark
To remember to bring all of your equipment to the rink requires either a check-list or a routine and routines work best for us.
Keeping children out of your hockey bag and away from your equipment also helps. More than one parent has showed up at the rink with their hockey bag to find that their 2 year-old has decide to play with one of your hockey gloves (never both–you see one and believe they are both in your bag). Keep your equipment in the same location.
Unload your equipment and hang it up as soon as you can after a game and then before you leave for practice or a game put it back in to the bag the same way. One approach is to put in your skates, then your shin pads, shoulder pads, gloves, elbow pads, helmet, jerseys, socks and then pack your breezers over the whole pile and then zip your bag shut. That way if something is missing you will notice during your mental checklist. Figure 3-5 is a checklist to post by your hockey bag. Make a copy and put it up by your equipment. Going through the list will be reassuring before you leave for the game.
When you return from a game make sure to take your equipment out of the bag and put it out to dry. We have provided simple instructions to build a “hockey tree” on another set of web pages. A hockey tree will dry your equipment between use. Most equipment can be hand washed in cold water and set out to dry. It is helpful to wipe the cloth/foam parts of the equipment with a fabric softener to make them less coarse against your skin.
It has become a cliché, but purchase the best hockey equipment your budget will permit. Try not to skimp on the skates. Used equipment can be a budget saver and a real value.
An equipment check list is provided on a separate web page. Print this out and tape it up by your equipment to make sure you have all your gear each time you go to the rink.