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What You Will Need
Learn what exactly you will need in order to start playing hockey; how to get properly fitted for equipment and how to sign up for programs at Kettler Capitals Iceplex

Skate Buying Tips

Fitting Your Skates

Skates usually fit one to one and a half size SMALLER than your shoe. Fit your skate while wearing a sock similar to one that you will wear while skating.

Before you lace up, make certain that your heel is snug against the boot's heel. Pull the first three eyelets tight leaving the next three or four somewhat loose to avoid constricting the arch area of the foot. The rest of the eyelets can then be pulled tight which will maximize the energy transfer to the skate. The distance across the foot from the eyelets should be about one and one half to two inches apart. If yours is further apart, you may want to try another boot and if the eyelets are closer, look for a narrower boot. Different manufacturers produce boots that fit differently so it is important to try on many to see what fits best. Do not be in a hurry to buy the skate, take 10 minutes or so and walk around in the skate checking for comfort.

Type Of Player And Type Of Skate:
Forwards usually don't think about protection because they are not necessarily blocking shots like a defenseman. They are more concerned with performance. The defenseman however should take protection into account such and the tongue.

Keys To Fitting
Heel: Does your heel move? There should be no movement or lifting with your heel. If your heel does move, you will get inflammation, abrasions, etc. and it will take away from your performance. Forefoot: The skate should be extremely snug for proper support to enable a good push off without any movement. Volume: How does your foot line up with a skate? If you put a ruler across the top of the eyelets, your foot should be fairly even with the ruler. If your foot is sitting very deep in the skate that is a sign that the skate is too deep for your foot which will cause too much "grab" and will inhibit your stride. If your foot is coming out of the skate on the top (above the ruler) then it is not deep enough and it will not hold your foot

Breaking In Your skates:
Some manufacturers have fitting ovens right at the retail store which allows for a faster break in period. A good way to break in your skates prior to hitting the ice is to lace them up at home and wear them while you are watching TV, on the computer, etc. Wearing them for a few hours at home prior to skating on ice will make your skating experience in new skates much more comfortable.

Lightweight Is Great But Fit Comes First
The hype surrounding the launch of new products often centers largely on a buzzword that keeps hockey players in constant search of new technology.

Whether it's sticks, pads or skates, the word lightness undoubtedly enters the conversation. But is lighter better when it comes to skates?

To find out, USA Hockey Magazine sat down with Rob McLean, manger, product research and advanced concept design for Mission Hockey. "The challenge for hockey skate manufacturers is to try and meet the demand for a light skate, but not at the sacrifice of the protection, fit and moldability," said McLean. "A player can put on a skate and feel its lightness. But when we are talking about a "light skate" the difference between weights of skates is usually about 40-50 grams. This is not a big deal for a player who has a lot of power and strength. I think that lightness is more of a mental thing where if a player feels that it is lighter, then they feel that they are going to be faster."

McLean says a player should concentrate on finding a skate that fits his or her foot well. "The skate really has two jobs, it is built to protect the foot and to secure the blade to the foot," said McLean. "Therefore any movement inside the skate detracts from the power transfer, the responsiveness and the agility of that skate. If the skate fits poorly you lose power, agility and responsiveness. Fit is really a quantifiable thing, you can see the performance difference and is the single most important thing in a skate and shouldn't be sacrificed for lightness."

Left or Right Hand?
A Stick-y Situation

On any given fall day, dozens of parents will enter their local sporting-goods store in search of hockey equipment for their sons and daughters.

"Which hand does he write with?" the salesperson will ask. If the answer is "right," the clerk unfortunately might produce a right-handed stick. But according to some hockey experts, this logic could be all wrong.

Currently, 67 percent of the sticks sold by major manufacturers have right-handed curves — a statistic that appears to make sense, given that roughly 80 percent of players are right-handed. However, looking back into the annals of hockey history, this was not always the case. In the 1960s and early 70s, when many players still used an uncurved or "straight" stickblade, the vast majority of right-handers played with their right hands atop the stick (what we would today call lefty). Some coaches call for a return to lefty sticks for right-handed players.

"In order to best use the stick to your advantage, the top hand should be your hand of dexterity. You have to be able to handle the stick, and there are times in the game when you have to play one-handed. To have control, you need your strong hand on top," says U.S. Women's National and Olympic Team Head Coach Ben Smith. Others believe the trend toward same-hand sticks has been good for hockey.

"We need goal scoring in the game. For scoring, it's all about the quick release. With the right hand down, you can use your wrist strength. You also see a better angle to the goal," insists Paul Caufield, assistant coach at the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point and all-time Div. III goal scorer.

There is science to support both sides. Based on biomechanics, the scientific study of how the body moves, a right-handed player who uses a lefty stick will have advantages when it comes to finesse and stick-handling.

Because the dominant hand is more responsive, having it atop the stick will provide a player with better control. With their dominant eye away from the puck, these players will also gain better up-ice vision.

Righties who play with right-handed sticks will have better power and accuracy on their shots and passes as well as better vision in tight situations. The power comes from having their strong arm lower on the stick, as well as being able to push off their more powerful leg. The vision arrives by having the dominant eye directly over the puck.

When it comes to women's hockey, the debate becomes even more complicated. According to studies published by the Institute of Hockey Research in Calgary, Alberta, male hockey players attain power from an even combination of leg and arm strength. Women, on the other hand, derive power almost exclusively from their legs. This means that women will gain substantially more power by using a strong-handed stick.

However, Smith argues that since the women's arms are sometimes proportionally less strong, they lose a considerable amount of control when playing with their dominant hand.

Statistically, 61 percent of USA Hockey's elite female players shoot left-handed, along with 53 percent of their male counterparts — a balance that speaks against going to either extreme.
Suddenly, the job of the sporting-goods salesperson seems impossibly complicated. Finesse or power? Control or accuracy? The question some hockey authorities are now asking is "Why are we letting salespeople, or coaches for that matter, determine how our children play?"

Before the age of curved sticks and biomechanical studies, every youth hockey player received the same straight-blade stick and the directive to Go Play. The young player would then hold the stick in whatever way felt natural. USA Hockey's National Coach-in-Chief Bob O'Connor compares this process to baseball.

"I feel the batting motion is the same as what you need for hockey," says O'Connor. "You've got some right-handed kids who bat left handed. Its not the hand that determines what side you use. Your stance —how much you bend and how far away you hold the puck — will determine how you should hold the stick."

However, finding a straight stick for a young player can be a challenge. Kevin McLaughlin, USA Hockey's director of Youth Hockey, is another advocate of straight sticks for youth players, both for skill development and for determining correct hand position. When his two young sons began playing last year, he searched half a dozen stores before finally locating a straight-blade stick. It was worth the effort, McLaughlin believes.

"I wasn't going to buy a curved stick. I was going to get a straight stick, even if I had to get it when I was traveling…I am a big proponent of playing by feel. Let (the kids) play and let them figure it out for themselves," he says.
Theories aside, many biomechanists agree with McLaughlin and O'Connor.

Joseph Maher, Assistant Sports Physiologist at the USOC, concluded, "I think the bottom line is which feels more comfortable."

Stick Buying Tips


Determining Stick Length:
A standard for determining stick length is to stand with skates and place the toe of the stick on the ground between your feet. Position the stick against your body to that the stick touches your chin. Make a mark where the stick touches your chin and this is where you should cut the stick. When you hit the ice, your stick should then come up to your chin, which represents a standard reference for proper length. Of course there are exceptions to this where certain types of players prefer longer or shorter sticks, such as a defenseman who prefers a longer stick for poke checking.

Determining the "flex" of a stick:
When picking up a new stick, the first thing you see players do is bend it. Why? Because they are getting a feel for the "flex" of the shaft. The right stick should allow the player to bend the shaft a bit without too much effort. A stiff shaft will lessen shot accuracy and puck speed and won't provide good feel for the puck. Most playmakers prefer a flexible and light shafts
that allow them optimum feel for shooting, passing and stick handling. Manufacturers usually offer three flexes and most youth players will end up in a medium flex with average stiffness and weight for good shooting and passing. Regardless of where you end up, the correct flex for the player should allow them to bend the shaft when they take a wrist shot or slap shot.

Why should I make a hockey stick grip?
Players typically tape the butt-end of their hockey sticks to give themselves better control of their stick. Most sticks don't provide a player with enough "grip" to get the control they need. Many professional players even spend hours "shaving" their grips to fit their hand more securely. Another reason for taping is to prevent your gloves from wearing out prematurely.

Types of hockey stick grips:
  • Cloth tape is what players have used for years to make a hockey stick grip.
  • Cohesive tape is very similar to medical tape and it has a nice "squishy" feel.
  • Grip Foam is one of the newest additions to help a player make a hockey stick grip. It is used along with tape to make a soft comfortable foam grip.
  • The newest grips to hit the market are composite hockey stick grips. They fit into hollow composite sticks only and are shaped to fit your hand better than a rectangular stick. They have a "shaved" grip feel and provide excellent glove wear.

Safety: You should always make a knob at the end of your hockey stick. This will keep the stick from accidentally being inserted into a player's helmet cage.

How to make a hockey stick grip:
With tape, most players will first make a knob at the end. Many players will then twist the tape around into a "piping". You then wrap the piping around the stick into a desired pattern. After the piping is wrapped, you then cover over with tape.

Grip foam is used to replace the"piping" to go around your stick. Instead, you place the soft grip foam shapes onto your stick, and then tape over the foam with cloth or cohesive tape.

The last and newest method of making a hockey stick grip is by buying a composite hockey stick grip. You don't have to make this grip, because it is already made for you. You insert the new style grips into hollow composite hockey sticks with hot melt glue, just like a replacement wood end plug. The grips are also reusable, so if you break your stick, you can take the grip out and put it in your new stick.

Helmet Buying Tips

Perhaps the most overlooked piece of equipment by hockey parents during the preseason shopping spree for new gear is the helmet. This is ironic considering that a good helmet may be the single most important piece of equipment in any player's bag. But selecting the right helmet is often overlooked because there are no noticeable performance enhancements associated with helmets. After all, a helmet won't add three miles per hour to your slap shot and doesn't have a carbon fiber blade that will add extra thrust to your stride! But when properly sized and fitted, the right helmet will provide crucial protection against the one injury all parents fear: a head injury.

So before you spend your entire equipment budget on skates and sticks, take the time to shop for the right helmet — rather than just the right color — and make sure that it fits properly and will provide the comfort and protection the player needs. The extra few dollars you may need to spend to get the right helmet will be well worth it.

Buying A Bucket

1. Fit is the most important factor. There is a direct correlation between a good fitting helmet and safety. Make sure that the helmet fits snugly on the head as this will prevent any shifting. Conversely, the helmet should not be so tight that it becomes uncomfortable to wear.

2. The chin strap should be adjusted so that it fits firmly under the chin, which will help support a proper fit.

3. Make sure the helmet is HECC certified. All helmets must be HECC certified to be used in USA Hockey-sanctioned games.
If the helmet becomes dented or cracked replace the helmet immediately. Some manufactures may offer guarantees against cracking.

Glove Buying Tips

Personal preference plays a big role in choosing a glove. Much like a baseball glove, some players like a small, soft and loose glove, while others, such as defensemen, may prefer a larger glove that provides optimum protection. Regardless of personal preference, protection from sticks and pucks in the hand and forearm are key considerations when sizing. Length of the glove should be determined to some degree by the finger length and if your fingers touch the end of the glove, it is too small. Also look for a glove that provides some protection on the back side which should be lined with some foam and/or hard plastic.

Elbow Pad Buying Tips
Good range of motion in an elbow pad is something to look for because fit with an elbow pad in fairly easy. The players elbow should fit comfortably into the center of the cup. Look for a pad that also provides forearm protection without constraining range of motion.

Shoulder Pad Buying Tips
Shoulder pads should be fit properly to provide protection for giving and receiving hits as well as well as being struck by the puck. What this all adds up to in fitting shoulder pads is making sure that the center of the players shoulders line up directly with the center of the shoulder cups. Most pads have adjustable straps in other areas of the pads and the adjustable fit should be acceptable as long as the shoulders and shoulder cups line up correctly. A good test for fit is to raise your arms above your shoulders and a good fit will allow this full range of motion without pushing the shoulder pads up around the player's neck. Fit is crucial as properly fitting shoulder pads will provide protection of the collar bone, chest, back, ribs and upper arm.

Shin Pad Buying Tips
The pad should extend down the full length of the leg where it will ultimately but up with the skate. If the pad is too long the skate will push the shin pad up, but if the pad fits comfortably under the skate tongue you have the right fit. Look for a shin pad which has the obvious protection on the front side, but also a wrap system which protects the back side of the leg. Once you have determine the right fit and selected a pad with good protection, it's important to properly strap the pad in place, making sure the straps are tight enough to hold the pad in place.

Pants Buying Tip

A standard guideline in sizing pants is to start with your waist size. Once the proper waist size is determined, personal preference determines how loose or tight the pant is worn. Next, the length of the pant can be determined by making sure the pant overlaps the top of the shin pad by one or two inches. This is important as anything less may expose the top of the knee when a player kneels. Look for pants which provide protection not only on the front side, but also extending around to the back side.




Information provided by USA Hockey and USA Hockey magazine.