As a new hockey parent, one of the first things you’re going to have to do is pick the proper equipment for your athlete. Navigating the various pieces – helmets, sticks, shoulder pads, breezers (what the heck are breezers?) – can be intimidating.
Where do you even start? Whether it's pond hockey or an organized program, getting the right skates and stick is your first challenge. Follow these simple guidelines to get your child on the right path.
When you’re buying skates, look for a pair 1-1.5 sizes “down” from your sneakers. So, if you’re a men’s size 9, go with a 7.5 or 8. Also, make sure you are deciding on skate size wearing the type of socks you'd normally wear while out skating.
When looking for a stick, you'll come across two terms immediately: Flex – how stiff it is when force is applied and a Curve – how bowed the blade is.
When you’re trying to decide what flex is best for you, divide your bodyweight by two. If you’re 120 pounds, a 60 flex - or 55 - should do the trick. (Despite what you may hear, cutting down your stick will not alter the flex ... just the feel.)
Ultimately, curve is about how you play the game. A more curved blade will aid stickhandling, while a more open face will help power slapshots and passes. You should also pay attention to where the bulk of the curve is – for instance, a heel curve (meaning, the curve is in the first ⅓ of the blade) will suit puck-clearing defensemen.
Use something “in between,” like a mid curve, and focus on improving basic skills. As you develop as a player, it will become obvious what stick is best for you.
(And if you’re young and just starting out, using a no-curve blade is a great way to learn the game. You’ll be in good company, too: Penguins great Sidney Crosby uses a relatively flat blade.)
Lightly-used or pre-owned gear sells at a fraction of the cost; even skates that retail for $1,000 can be had for as little as $200. And most of it is in fantastic shape. Younger players quickly outgrow their gear, trading up sizes mid-season. Beer leaguers “hang up” their skates. And every summer, professional teams unload tens of thousands of mint “pro stock” items they didn’t use the prior season.
For those living in hockey communities, gear swaps and trade-in shops are an easy option. Also, savvy shoppers can also find steals online. On SportsEngine Gear Marketplace used sticks and skates typically list at a 60 percent discount to what you’ll find in stores.