Hockey Equipment 101, CVHA House League (City of Vaughan Hockey)

PrintHockey Equipment 101


(for a printable one page checklist you can take with you to the store, click the link below!)


Hockey is a great sport that is great for exercise, meeting new friends and learning the game that so many play!  To do that, protecting yourself with the proper fitting equipment will allow you to focus on learning and playing the game.  Below is a general guide that explains the required and optional equipment you need.  For more information, the best thing to do is search for videos on YouTube for product reviews, how to properly fit equipment and how to wear it properly.  Doing a bit of research before heading to the store will help you out.  Don’t worry, most people have no idea how to properly size hockey equipment, so don’t be afraid to ask someone at the store for help!  We also have included a checklist for you to print out if you are going shopping for new equipment so you don’t forget anything!

What brand should I buy?

There are a handful of brands in the hockey protective space, all of which make great equipment.  The short answer is buy which ever brand fits you the best for that specific piece of equipment.  You might fit best in one brand in skates, and prefer the shoulder pads of another.  What ever fits best is going to protect you the most!

Do I need to buy specific coloured equipment for house league? 

Not at all!  The most common colour for helmets, gloves and pants are black, so you will find that probably has the greatest selection and probably will match most of the uniforms, however, if blue, green, pink, etc., is your favourite colour, go for it!

Hockey Helmet

The helmet is designed to reduce the risk of injury to your head.  For that to occur, it is extremely important, just like with all equipment, to fit properly and not be too big or too small.  Helmets are adjustable so once you find the general size that fits, you can adjust to smaller/bigger to get that custom fit.  Some can be adjusted with a screwdriver and other models have clips that allow you to just open them and adjust on the fly.  For facial protection, it is mandatory to have a full cage/mask on the helmet.  Equally important, helmets must have the ear protectors on them (do not remove them!).  All hockey helmets must be CSA certified, and should always be purchased new.

Hockey Cage and Face Shields

The wire cage is strong and durable and provides excellent ventilation, breathing, and vision, and is the most common among players.  It must be attached to the helmet, as minor hockey requires all players to use them.  One other option is to use a clear face shield.  Some players prefer this version as it provides excellent vision both straight ahead and peripherally.  Both cage and face shield must cover the entire face (half visors like you see used in the NHL are not allowed).  These must also be CSA certified.

Mouth Guards (optional)*

Mouth guards are optional to wear but if worn, must be worn properly and remain fully inside your mouth - not being chewed on or half out.  They can reduce the incidence and severity of injuries to the teeth and mouth and can act as shock absorbers against more serious injuries to the head. It is important to clean and disinfect your mouth guard after each use.

Neck Guard

The neck guard is mandatory and needs to carry BNQ certification.  It is intended to protect against skate blades, not impact from sticks or pucks.  It should cover the entire throat area and fit snugly and comfortably.  There are two styles to choose from.  One that wraps around the neck with a Velcro strap, and the other is the same, but has an extended “bib” portion.  Either may be used.  Some undergarments will have a built-in neck protector/cut guard, but this alone is not acceptable, and can be used as an extra layer of protection underneath a separate neck guard.

Shoulder Pads

Your shoulder pads are your first line of defense in the event of an impact with the boards or with other players.  Properly fitted pads will provide protection for the collar bone, chest, ribs, back, and upper arms.  It is important that the shoulder pads achieve this protection while still allowing a full range of motion.  For example, lifting your arms above your head should not push the shoulder pads uncomfortably high around the players neck (that would be a sign they are too big). As well, they should not extend past the middle of the arm (bicep), as your elbow pads will then get in the way and be obstructed.  Some shoulder pads will also feature adjustable Velcro straps to move the bicep and upper arm protectors.   A good tip is to try on your shoulder pads with elbow pads to make sure they cover to the top or just below the top of the elbow pad, and the player can move their arms freely without the shoulder and elbow pads restricting movement.

Elbow Pads

Your elbows are probably bumping into the boards, other players, almost without fail hitting the ice when you fall, and one thing you want to make sure you have is properly fitting elbow pads!  Your elbow should fit comfortably into the center of the elbow pad cup, and when the straps are done up, the elbow pad should not slide or shift from position (that would indicate a pad too small/large, or bad fit).  It should extend close to the top cuff of your glove to provide forearm protection.

Hockey Gloves

Gloves are key to a player and one of the more personal choices a player has in terms of style an fit.  Gloves are meant to primarily protect against sticks and other impacts on the ice.  They should ensure that the gap between the glove and the elbow pad is minimal (you most likely will have a bit of a gap). The tightness of the glove on your hand is a personal preference and the tips of your fingers should not go completely to the end of the glove, pushing beyond the protective top layer.  The glove should also have a lock thumb system, which prevents the thumb from being bent backwards.  Simply try to bend the thumb back to see if it bends. Some lower priced models may not have them, but it is highly recommended, as you have a lot of pressure on your thumbs in hockey and you don’t want them pushed back with force.

Jock/Jill Shorts or Leggings

Another important piece of equipment is the Jock or Jill.  These come in two varieties, usually in a mesh short that contains the protective cup and Velcro to adhere your hockey (shin/leg) socks too (front and back), or in compression full leggings, which do the same.  It is a personal preference which you use, but you need to use one of them! Sizing is by your waist size.

Hockey Pants

Hockey pants protect your lower back, tailbone, hips and upper legs from hits, sticks, pucks, and impacts.  Pants should be loose but comfortable.  You don’t want a tight fit with hockey pants as you want them to absorb impact and give you freedom of movement.  The best way to try on pants in a store is to wear a thinner pant or track pant when trying them on.  You will be use your waist size as a general guide, and ensure the pants are secured in place by the belt around the waist.  The bottom of the pants should overlap the top of the shin pad kneecap by 1-2 inches.  This will ensure proper protection even when in a kneeling position. 

Hockey Foot / Skate Sock

When wearing skates, most players prefer to wear a thinner “skate sock” then just wearing the normal athletic socks you would wear with running shoes (back in the day most players would go bare foot!).  This gives the player a much better feel with their skates on the ice, which is important given you are gliding on a very small amount of blade!  In addition, they are now making Kevlar or Cut-Resistant socks which provide even further protection to the back of the foot and Achille’s.  These tend to be heavier and thicker in the protected areas and thin out in the foot to give you feel in your skate boot.  Either sock style works, but whatever sock you are going to use, should be the ones you try your skates on with when going to buy a new pair!  So buy your socks first!


This is one of the most important pieces of equipment you wear!  A properly fitting skate is so important to the player’s ability to be able to balance properly on the ice, and thus be able to skate at fast speeds and be able to maneuver.  Just like with shoes, kids are growing quickly and growing out of them before they wear them out, but getting a bigger size skate will not only impair their ability to skate properly and improve but will make the game frustrating for them.  Imagine getting larger soccer cleats and every time they tried to turn or dribble the ball their cleats would come off or they had to worry about compensating for that, it would ruin their game! No different in hockey! Today’s skates have tons of technology built into them, including the use of thermoplastics that when heated will mold to your feet, so don’t be shocked when they tell you they are going to “bake them in the oven” before they put them on your feet!  There are a ton of videos and material on the internet that can provide way more detail, but we cannot stress enough that a proper fitting skate will be better than the most expensive skate that is too big! 

Hockey Sticks

It is not necessary to buy the higher end hockey sticks and spend that amount for you to have a stick that performs.  Today, most sticks are made from fibreglass and carbon fibre and are much lighter and perform way better than any of the wood sticks used. The key to a good hockey stick is size. On your skates, place your hockey stick between your legs and it should reach no higher than your nose.  Most players will have it as high as their nose, and as low as their chin. Too long or too short will affect your balance point on the ice, and that will affect your shooting, skating, and play. As a starting point, we would recommend you cut it to the tip of your nose and try it out a couple of times on the ice and adjust accordingly. You can always make it smaller! A good tip is to ask your coach to look at them on the ice and let you know if the stick length is good! Lastly, 1 stick is going to be more than OK up until you get to 13yrs and older. At the older ages, as you begin to take harder shots and the game gets faster, some players will want to bring a back-up stick to the game in case they break theirs in the game!

Hockey Bag

A necessary requirement to bring all your equipment to and from the rink! For the younger ages (>10yrs) any hockey bag that is 32” will be fine, where the older players will need a bag that is 36” and larger. Goalies of course need even bigger, and you can look out for a goalie specific bag, or anything that is usually 40” or larger. Any style or colour of hockey bag will do!

Water Bottle

Every player must have their own water bottle as you are not allowed to share them. It should be clearly marked with your name on it, which can be done with a permanent marker, or put some hockey tape around it and write on that. The most common is the one with a “straw” on top for the younger kids, which allows the player to put it in between their face mask/cage without removing their helmet. This is necessary to hydrate during a game or practice as you will definitely be sweating and need to replenish that water!

Hockey Socks (leg/shin)

As part of the CVHA house league, we hand out socks as part of your uniform, however, this is usually done several weeks into the season after we have balanced teams. Because of that, if you don’t already have a pair, please pick up any pair of hockey socks to use. They can be any colour (pick your favourite team!), and the best way to fit them is hold them up in the store and have them go from your ankle to mid-thigh (between your knee and waist), as this is where they will attach to Velcro on your Jock/Jill.

Hockey Tape (Stick Tape and Shin/Clear Tape)

Every player should have their own hockey tape.  This is used to tape up your stick which you will do many times a season. It is recommended to use the white coloured tape for the top of your stick, as the black tape will wear out the palm of your glove faster.  For your blade, most players prefer to use black tape, as it is thought to “hide” the puck on your stick. However, feel free to use whatever colours you want - you can even go with your team colours as a lot of players and NHL’ers do! There are also all kinds of other products available to use for your blade and for grip at the top of your stick, but hockey tape works just fine!

Shin pad tape, or sometimes called “Clear Tape”, is as it sounds - see through - and used to secure your shin pads!  This goes on top of your hockey socks and is designed to have more elasticity than hockey tape, so that your shin pad can flex with your movement. This is commonly used to help make sure your shin pads stay in place.

Towel To Dry Your Skates and Equipment

After you play, your skates will have all kinds of snow on them! As your blades and some of the attachments are steel, you want to make sure you dry them off to prolong their lifespan and prevent them from rusting. Any used old towel from home makes a great skate towel, no need to buy a new one!

Skate Guards (optional but highly recommended)*

These are optional but are highly recommended! The blades on your skates are sharp, so if you put them in your hockey bag unprotected, they can cut up your equipment and bag, but also get dull and damaged.  By putting a pair of skate guards on them, you can prevent this from happening. The last thing you want to have happen is have a damaged blade and you are ready to go on the ice and you can’t skate because of it! There are two types, one is a terry material that dries your skate blades as well as protecting them, and the traditional rubber type. Either work! If you are going to be doing up skates at home or know you need to walk a distance in your skates on cement or non-rubber mats, you want to make sure your skate guards have a thick hard strip on the bottom or are rubber! 

Hockey Jersey (optional but necessary if you don’t already have one)*

When you join the CVHA House League, you will be given a hockey jersey at the first team practice. Depending on the format, you may have a skate or two before that, and so you should have a spare jersey in your bag, especially if you don’t have one already!  It does not have to be the latest NHL jersey (it can if you want!), but a simple basic practice jersey in any colour you want can be found at any hockey store. Remember, you are wearing shoulder and elbow pads when you wear it, so it is going to need to be bigger than what you normally wear, probably a size or two larger!

Undergarments – Compression Top and Leggings (optional)*

While these are not necessary, and other options exist, you should be wearing something underneath your equipment (even underneath your Jock/Jill).  For example, you can easily wear a t-shirt or long sleeve top you have at home underneath your shoulders and elbow pads.  If wearing a long sleeve shirt, make sure it is not thick as that will be an issue with your elbow pads fitting properly.  For bottoms, for comfort and warmth a lot of players will wear thin (do not wear thick for indoor hockey, save that for the outdoor rink!) leggings. For leggings, if you choose the Jock/Jill that is the compression leggings, then you get a 2 in 1! Players prefer undergarments for comfort and to ensure that the equipment isn’t rubbing against their skin and irritating it. The thinner the better as once the player is moving, they will heat up. It can be specialized compression tops and leggings to an old t-shirt and old leggings!

That covers most of what you need but let us know if we missed something you think we should add!  Within each category, there are always new products and innovations so you may see a variety of different products.  Always ask questions and check out the wide variety of resources on the internet for more detailed explanations. We are always here if you need any advice on what you need, and your fellow teammates and coaches are always a great resource. 

See you on the ice!

(adapted from