What are the purpose of shoulder pads? And why do you need them to play hockey? Well the obvious answer is for protection, they are designed to protect key areas of the body that can get injured by falling or physical impact playing the game. The can protect the whole upper body including collar bone, shoulder, sternum, rib cage, spine and bicep. Made largely of foam and plastic they provide excellent protection. It should be pointed out that for learners and juniors it is advisable to have large, tough pads. But as you progress as a player less bulky shoulder pads give more flexibility.
All shoulder pads are made of an assortment of plastic and different densities of foam, from mid and high-density performance. Different pads protect different and not all the same areas, some shoulder pads are longer to give more protection to the spine. The key areas on all shoulder pads are: –
- Collar bone protector
- Shoulder cap
- Bicep protector
- Ribs guard
- Velcro straps
- Abdominal pad
Sizing and Fitting
Because the shoulder pad protects a multitude of areas there are different aspect to the fit. Firstly, the pad should rest on the natural curvature of your shoulders, it should be long enough to protect both the collar bone and the rib cage. Most pads to not extend into the stomach area, as that would make them too restrictive in the movement needed for playing hockey. Padded hockey pants will cover the upper part of your hips so there is plenty of protection. It is highly important that the shoulder pads are not too long or short, there must be sufficient protection but not so much that you cannot move.
Signs that your pads are too short are:
- The top caps of the pads point vertical and not outwards
- The neckline restricts movement and is choking
- If you raise your arms up, the caps pinch the face
- There is not enough pad to protect the rib cage
Signs that your pads are too big are:
- The bottom of the pad is way past the rib cage
- The neckline droops down
- They look droopy not centered on the shoulders
- The pulling down of the neckline exposes part of the shoulders
Shoulder Pad Choices
The biggest choice you will have to make choosing your shoulder pads is, if you want them light and flexible or you need them tough offering the most protection. The best advice is to try on a number of pads at a good sports equipment stockiest, and if you can borrow some pads from fellow players try them out to see which you prefer. At the more amateur end of the sport the players will be clumsier and protection is the first priority, but as you progress to play in higher leagues then you will definitely need more flexibility to enable you to get around the ice easily and play your shots.
There are many manufacturers of shoulder pads and you may want to consider makers of one or two different types of pads as these are more likely to have something in the middle to suit everybody, try Warrior Dynasty or Bauer Supreme. In part two of this blog into fitting the perfect shoulder pads for hockey, we looking at the actual fitting and adjustment.