A minute for the Gear…
This is a post for those of you who have never been near an ice rink, and may have a desire to "strap on the pads", or it can also be used for parents about to embark on a child's career "between the pipes". The information contained here is my opinion only, it does not represent ANY vendor, nor any other athlete at ANY level. You are welcome to take what you want from this or leave it entirely. Use at your own risk.
So, the only vendor listed here will be the governing body for ice hockey in the United States (USA hockey). Every player is required to register with them, but, there are some benefits to being a part of USA hockey. Insurance is one, and the monthly magazine definitely offers some different points of view that may enhance your game. After registering with USA Hockey, you'll want to make sure you (or your child) is in the proper health to commit to the game. Hockey is VERY physical. Whether talking about slamming into other people and things or just skating back and forth on a sheet of ice, it can be physically demanding.
Starting at the top, with no further delay let's outline each piece of my gear:
Helmet: The helmet is very important, and must be repurchased throughout the career of a goalie. Whether because of a growing head, or impact, periodic replacement of a goalie helmet is inevitable. Just as important as the helmet is the face cage. Some goalies prefer the standard cage, while others (myself included) prefer what's called the "cat-eye". All it means is the configuration of the metal bars that cover the goalie's face from the front.
COST: About $100 - $500+ depending on the manufacturer and model. I use a Vaughn helmet, although almost any manufacturer has to meet standards set by USA Hockey.
Mouthguard: Typically mouthguards are worn attached to the facemask of the helmet for players and goalies alike. USA Hockey requires them up to a certain age group (check with your child's coach to ensure compliance here). USA Hockey sanctioned games will not allow your child to play without their mouthguard. I would also recommend them for adults too, as they allow you to bite down when falling on the ice, minimizing some of the potential damage.
COST: $10 - $20+ Again, depends on what you get. I personally recommend the Shock Doctor brand... but, that's my opinion.
Neck pad: Here is where you will find a bunch of schools of thought. Most goaltenders I know fall into one of three schools. First is the group that uses "danglers", which are simply plastic shields that hang on laces from the facemask down under the helmet bottom thereby preventing pucks from hitting the throat. The second school uses (like I do) a separate neck guard that goes under the chest protector covering the neck. This guard is typically soft and has a bib that runs down under the chest protector. The final school of thought is that most chest protectors have short neck "cuffs" that do provide some protection... albeit, not much they choose to play without neck protection at all, opting for freedom of movement instead. My son played with both: a dangler, and soft neck guard.
COST: $0 - $50 depending on which school of thought you go with.
Chest Protector: Or their affectionate name the "chesty" is the padding that covers everything from the waist to the neck, including the arms. I could spend a whole post covering all the features that are included in the modern chest protectors, suffice to say you will want to look at available adjustments (helps with the growing goalie), and costs. The best option here is to visit a local hockey shop (better if they have an old goalie around) to help fit and explain all the cool stuff included in the chest protector. Manufacturer and model are crucial in determining the cost of the chesty. However, you get what you pay for, so choose carefully here. In addition, for us old-timers, check your chesty to make sure it will protect the old ticker for a slap shot on the center mast. I chose the RBK (Reebok) 6K rig for me, but shop around.
COST: $250 - $1000+ again, depending on manufacturer and model.
Catcher: This is one of the tools that change throughout the growth of an ice hockey goaltender. When a goalie is young, having the catcher expanded allows a smaller goalie to cover more of the net. Again, model and manufacturer are critical in choosing this combination (typically included with the blocker (below). Their lacing is one of the more important features, in addition to the articulating cuff. Both equally important. The critical piece here is ensuring that it fits. Buying a catcher that is too large, or too small takes away a substantial potential for success for the goalie. As we get older, we have a tendency to "break" the glove in much the same way you break in a baseball mitt. Same concept. Again, make sure it fits, and most have adjustments within the catcher to ensure you have a little growth room.
COST: $50 - $500+ Function, form and fit are critical to success.
Blocker: the blocker goes on the other hand and makes up the set of gloves for a goaltender. This is also going to be the hand that the stick is held with, so equally important. One of the key features I like about mine is the fingertip protectors. This feature is crazy important whenever a goalie has to "paddle-down" (explained in another post). Suffice to say, form and fit are critical here too.
COST: $50 - $500+ Same song, all dependent on manufacturer and model.
Hockey Stick: I used to think that as long as you were close with the length measurement, you were fine, however, I have since learned that the length of the paddle is critical to determining the goalie's stance when in a "ready" position. If the goalie has a low stance (small 5 holes (described in another post)), then the paddle can be shorter, but for us old people who can't do that anymore, we choose to have longer paddles. Your other coffee decision here is wood versus carbon fiber and the curvature of the blade. So, while determining your next pumpkin-spice Americano grande, think about those pieces as well. I use carbon-fiber 27.5" Warrior sticks with a Lindquist curve as an example.
COST: $100 - $500+ depending on the features and the manufacturer.
Which brings us to another topic that has driven me even further crazy since starting the game of hockey, however, after struggling with this topic for some time, I have finally arrived at the idea, that its the same for hockey as it is for baseball. If you are right-handed, you catch with your left hand, therefore you use Right Handed stuff. I don't know why I struggled with this, but, here we are. If you little goalie hasn't played baseball, then throw something at them (just kidding). Which hand do they color or write with? That will be an indicator as to which hand he plays with.
Goalie Pants: This is another area that I learned that there exists a difference between player and goaltender gear. For the first couple of years playing as a goaltender, I used standard hockey pants that I had from my player days. I would come off the ice with substantial bruises on the inside of my thighs, which actually wound up making me get additional padding for the inside of my knees. Finally, I was introduced to a pair of goalie pants. They are very different. With padding built-in to the inside of the thighs and additional protection throughout the pelvic area, they are a much more robust pair of hockey pants. When you are shopping for your hockey pants, get better ones. Trust me, its worth the investment. I have (within the last year) finally upgraded to a set of Bauer Vapor goalie pants.
COST: $200 - $500+ This is the cost for real goalie pants. However, if your budget can only afford used gear, check the inside of the thigh, as my first pair were hanging at the local reseller as regular hockey pants.
Athletic Supporter and Cup: There are two different levels for the cup for a goalie. There are those who have the more robust goalie pants and rely on them to keep the pelvic area safe, and those who don't and go with a specifically designed goalie cup. The specifically designed cup includes pubic padding that protects the area above the cup itself. Again, some of these decisions may be made with the purchase of goalie pants which has the additional pubic padding/protection built-in. I personally use a standard Shock Doctor cup in shorts that hold up my hockey socks.
COST: $10 - $60 depending on which method you decide to go with.
Goal Pads (Leg pads): Ah yes, the infamous goal pads. Without a doubt the single item that identifies the goaltender, and hockey in general. They are what makes goalies stand out for sure. They are, without a doubt, the single largest investment you will make as an ice hockey goalie. There are tons of schools of thoughts as to how to measure, however, here is my non-scientific method. It's how I did it, and it seems to work out pretty well for me.
- Kneel down on the floor. Measure the distance between your knees and split that in half.
- Measure the distance between your heel and knee cap.
- Add those two numbers together.
This should give you a really good starting place for your local shop. I would definitely spend a few minutes at a local shop trying them on. Goal pads are as individual as the goalie who wears them. I have two sets, the first set are the Vaughn Velocity 34+2 (black and gold), and the second are Warrior Fortress 34+2 (RWB).
COST: $300 - $2000+ Depends on manufacturer and model year. (Where have you heard that before?)
Hockey Socks: This section really covers whatever gear you want to wear under your pads. Couple of tips I've learned. Firstly, I wear an UnderArmor shirt under my chest protector. This allows the chesty to slide freely during a game. Once the skin gets a little wet, the slippery quality is gone. The other tip is I wear regular hockey socks under my goal pads. The hockey socks provide a little padding (for rare occasional impact between my knee and the ice surface) and allow the goal pads to slip a little during play. The downside is that its a little warmer than wearing UnderArmor or spandex pants.
COST: $10 - $50 depending on what you want to wear.
Skates: Skates are pretty straight forward, although you will have the option for a "cowling" or not. However, regular ice skates will not work well here. There are many differences between a goalie skate and a regular player hockey skate. However, some skates can be "baked" (molded to the foot) making them seem a lot more comfortable. Skates can have a ton of features, so the best option here is to visit your local hockey store and try them on. I personally use the CCM RBZ Goalie skates.
COST: $25 - $800 depends on new vs. used, what manufacturer, model year, and several other factors.