Ice hockey equipment

Ice hockey equipment

In ice hockey, players use specialized equipment both to facilitate the play of the game and for protection.

Background

The hard surfaces of the ice and boards, pucks flying at high speed (over 160 kilometers per hour (100 mph) at times), and other players maneuvering (and often intentionally colliding, also known as "checking") pose a multitude of inherent safety hazards. Besides ice skates and sticks, hockey players are usually equipped with an array of safety gear to lessen their risk of serious injury. This usually includes a helmet, shoulder pads, elbow pads, mouth guard, protective gloves, heavily padded shorts, a 'jock' athletic protector, shin pads/chest protector and a neck guard. Goaltenders wear masks and much bulkier, specialized equipment designed to protect them from many direct hits from the puck. The hockey skate is usually made of a thick layer of leather or nylon to protect the feet and lower legs of the player from injury. Its blade is rounded on both ends to allow for easy maneuvering. Goaltenders' skates, however, have blades that are lower to the ice and more square than round; this is advantageous to the goalies, for whom lateral mobility and stability are more important than quick turns and speed.

History

The first skates had simple metal blades tied to regular shoes. The sticks were thin pieces of wood until the 1930s. In 1897, G.H. Merritt introduced simple goalie pads by wearing the wicket-keeper's pads. All players played in simple leather gloves, until a Detroit goalie introduced the trapper and blocker in 1948, by experimenting with a rectangular piece of leather, and a baseball catcher's glove. Jacques Plante was the first regular user of the goalie mask; Clint Benedict used a crude leather version in 1928 to protect a broken nose. The goalie mask evolved to Vladislav Tretiak design, the first helmet and cage combo. Considered primitive by today's standard, that sort of mask is only used by Chris Osgood. The other helmet and cage combo, used today only by Dominik Hasek and Dan Cloutier is often questioned, citing safety concerns. The most recognized goalie mask today resembles a highly fortified motorcycle helmet with a cage attached, however the construction is very different, being a true mask rather than a helmet. The composite hockey stick era is very new - when the Penguins won the Cup, Tom Barrasso was still using a wood stick.

General equipment

Two things that are general, non-protective equipment are the hockey puck and the hockey sweater. On top of the protective gear, players wear a jersey or sweater which displays the team's logo or crest and colours, as well as the player's name and number. Players also wear thick wool or polyester socks that match the jersey colors and have no "foot" (as the material would cause the player's foot to move in the skate, decreasing stability). They are used to cover the kneepads and provide some lower-body insulation as many kneepads have little or no backing.

Equipment used by regular players

* Helmet Combo - composed of a helmet with strap, and optionally a face cage or visor
* Neck Guard - helps prevent injury from skates, sticks and pucks to the neck and throat. It is usually optional as it restricts neck movement.
* Shoulder Pads - also includes torso and spine protection from flying pucks and most collisions.
* Elbow Pads - provides forearm and tricep protection against pucks in addition to a reinforced elbow cup.
* Hockey Gloves - protects the hands; player's gloves are constructed with a very thin palm and fingers while providing substantially more padding to the outside of the hands; also reinforces the thumb to prevent it bending backwards.
* Hockey Pants - incorporates thigh, pelvic, hip and tailbone pads
* Jock/cup or ladies' pelvic protector (jillstrap)
* Shin Guards - incorporating a kneepad as well, the shin guard has a hard shell in front to protect against pucks, but usually has little or no protection on the calf.
* Mouthguard - many variants exists from standard plastic guards to custom-moldable compounds that make speaking easier.
* Ice skates - incorporate a rigid shell, often reinforced with metal mesh to prevent a skate blade cutting through. Unlike figure skates, hockey skates have a rounded heel and no toe picks as these can be dangerous in a "pile-up".
* Hockey Stick - Made of wood or composite materials.

Goaltending equipment

Goalies are allowed special variations on equipment, both to increase their chance of stopping pucks and for extra protection. They offer more protection from frontal impacts, while generally providing little or no protection to the goalie's back. This is because a goalie should always face the action and a hit on a non-padded area is generally a mistake on the part of the goalie.

* Goal stick - incorporates a larger blade than player sticks as well as a widened flat shaft. Mostly used to block but the goalie can play the puck with it.
* Goal skates - thicker blade with a larger blade radius and less ankle support allows a goalie to slide off his skates to make "pad stops" more easily.
* Goalie mask or helmet and wire facemask. Masks are fitted to the player's face and can withstand multiple high-speed impacts from pucks. Most leagues including the NHL now require goalies to hang a throat protector and/or wear a neck pad to protect against pucks and skate blades.
* Chest and arm protector - more thickly padded in the front than a player's shoulder pads, also incorporating forearm, elbow and bicep protection.
* Blocker, worn on the hand that holds the stick. It is a glove with a square pad on the back, used to deflect shots.
* Catch glove, worn on the opposite hand, used to gather up the puck on the ice or catch a flying shot.
* Goal jock or jill - better pelvic protection and more padding in front of the cup than a player's jock.
* Goal pants - incorporating thicker thigh padding and additional pelvic/hip protection, but reduced groin protection (this is mitigated by the jock and allows for increased flexibility)
* Goal pads - thickly padded leg pads covering the top of the skate, the player's shin and the knees. Pads are 11' or 12" wide (recent NHL rule changes reduced the width of the pads) and sized to fit the individual player's legs. Most shots are blocked by some method of "pad stop".
* Socks, covering the leg from the foot to just above the knee or above. Usually this is the only protection afforded to a goalie's calves, as the back of the goal pads are simply a series of straps.

Normally the stick has a left-hand curve, is held in the right hand with the blocker, and the catch is on the left. However, "full right" goalies reverse this, holding a right-hand curve stick in the left hand and catching with the right. This is largely personal preference, depending mostly on which hand the goalie is most comfortable catching with.

Certification of hockey equipment

Many leagues require players to wear equipment, especially head and face protection, certified by trusted agencies. As of 2005, there are four groups that specify standards for hockey head and face protection: [ cite web| title= Certification of Hockey of Equipment| url=http://bjsm.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/36/6/410 | publisher= BJMS ]
* European Committee for Standardization (CEN)
* International Organization for Standardization (ISO)
* Canadian Standards Association (CSA)
* ASTM InternationalMost countries requires youth players to wear helmets and facemasks certified by the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC). This group certifies equipment based on the ASTM standards; it does not write standards. [ cite web| title= HCCC FAQ's | url=http://www.hecc.net/about.faq.html | publisher=Hockey Equipment Certification Council ]

Facemask controversy

Youth and college hockey players are required to wear a mask made from metal wire or transparent plastic attached to their helmet that protects their face during play. Professional and adult players may instead wear a visor that protects only their eyes, or no mask at all; however, some provincial and state legislation require full facial protection at all non-professional levels. Rules regarding visors and face masks are mildly controversial at professional levels. Some players feel that they interfere with their vision or breathing, or encourage carrying of the stick up high in a reckless manner, while others believe that they are a necessary safety precaution.

In fact, the adoption of safety equipment has been a gradual one at the North American professional level, where even helmets were not mandatory until the 1980s. The famous goalie, Jacques Plante, had to suffer a hard blow to the face with a flying puck in 1959 before he could persuade his coach to allow him to wear a protective goalie mask in play.

References


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