Hockey is a fantastic sport but, in order to play it safely and enjoy the experience, you should have good equipment, that fits properly, to protect your body, yet still allows you a proper range of motion to perform the required physical skills. For those new to the game, places like Canadian Tire or Wal Mart offer starter kits for a very reasonable price. Used gear stores like McColmans Recycled Sports (or Play it Again Sports) can also help with acquiring skates.
Skating is the most important, yet the most difficult skill to master in hockey. If possible, try to buy a new pair of good quality skates. It will make a whole world of difference in your child's hockey development and skating performance. If unable to, try to purchase the best quality used skates you can find, that fits properly and still has stiff ankle support and good blade life. Skates must fit snugly, but not cramp your toes, and have good upright ankle support. One pair of thin 100% cotton socks is all you should wear not 2 or 3 pair. Skates are usually 1 size smaller than street/running shoes to provide a glove like fit.
The "criss-cross" or “X” method is considered the most comfortable.
Do not wrap the laces around the ankle to tie them as this hinders the forward flex of the foot and ankle and will impair your child's skating speed and turns. Just tie them in a bow knot at the front of the skate like you tie shoes. If the laces are too long get shorter ones.
The skate blades must be sharp, but not razor sharp, in order for you to stop, start and turn without falling.
If you get a deep nick or burr on the bottom edge of your blade you will fall. It should be sharpened as soon as possible by an experienced skate sharpening professional.
You should not need your skates sharpened every game, but 4 to 6 times a season is average, or if you get a nick or burr on the blade's edge. You can use 10 hours of ice time as a guide.
After skates, your stick is the most important piece of equipment because it is used for scoring and preventing goals.
The stick's length, when in an upright position and while you are standing in your skates, should come up to between your chin (maximum) and your collar bone (minimum). If it is any longer or shorter, you will have difficulty shooting or carrying the puck. Experiment with different stick lengths to find the most comfortable.
It is the angle between the stick's shaft and blade. The higher the angle (135%), the further the puck is away from your feet. The lower the angle (110%), the closer the puck is to your feet.
Sticks are made for Left or Right handed shots. The lower hand on the stick when shooting determines whether you shoot Left or Right.
A slight curve of about ¼ inch is ok because a straight stick blade is very hard to find and I don't believe they are made any more. A big curve on the other hand is out of the question until your child gets to Bantam and even then, I don't think it's necessary.
Equipment that provides solid protection is essential to prevent injuries. Shin pads, pants, shoulder pads, elbow pads, gloves, helmet with visor or cage, jock or jill strap, garter belt and neck guard are all pieces of equipment that can be purchased second hand from Play It Again Sports at the start of the season to help keep the high costs of playing hockey down. However, having said that, the equipment purchased must fit properly so it doesn't move or shift if your child falls, gets hit by the puck, gets body checked or runs into another player or the boards.
Light cotton, or a breathable material, long john type, top and bottom underwear should be worn under your equipment.
A hockey bag large enough to carry all of your equipment is suggested.
Have a great game!
Hopefully these basic tips will help the new players and their parents get some idea of the equipment their child will need to have for an enjoyable, safe and rewarding hockey experience.
Should you find these tips helpful, please check out www.HockeyMadeEasy.com
Yours in hockey,
Author Hockey Made Easy
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