Kitting out a Beginner
This guide is designed to help you kit out a player who is new to the game. "What do we need" is a question we are often asked and this guide will direct you to the "must have", "highly recommended" and "optional extra" products you need to know about.
One obvious product in this category - a stick! Elsewhere in these guides you will find advice on how to choose a stick for a junior as well as an older player taking up hockey for the first time.
Beyond that shinguards and a gumshield (mouthguard) are essentials too.
Shinguards come in various styles. Juniors and absolute beginners might opt for a football-style shinguard since this has a familiar design that brings comfort. We would recommend picking a version of this adapted for hockey though (produced by a hockey stick brand) since this will have a higher level of protection than regular football ones.
The next step in shinguards would be something pre-shaped and usually without straps, with a moulded hard shell to cover your shin and ankles backed by a cushioned piece of padding. These are a bit easier to use since you can put them on and take them off without taking your shoes off and much more protective than entry level football style ones. Some will be "anatomically shaped", with one side longer (to be worn on the outside of the leg) than the other for greater coverage.
We stock mouthguards from Opro, a specialist in the field. A mouthguard is essential and we highly recommend Opro who have a varied range with each model offering good protection, a warranty and being easy to custom fit.
While they are not essential some form of protective glove (hand protector) for the left hand is something to consider sooner or later. We are often asked which hand needs a glove and the answer is the left because the way you hold the stick puts your left hand at the front and more inclined to impact than the right. Hand Protectors are 99.9% of the time sold as singles (left or right hand). There is no reason why you can't wear protection on both hands and some players do but it is much more common to see the left hand only protected.
Most protective gloves these days are similar in style to a shinguard - a hard shell with a padded lining for comfort. There's a variety out there, some with a full palm (easy to wear) some with an open palm (better feel on the stick, a more advanced consideration). You can also find gloves to protect against the cold, though generally these do not offer any impact protection.
Only two things to mention here, a bag that holds your stick (and often more) and Inner Socks / Shinliners.
There are two main styles of hockey bag, one that is the length of a stick (called a stick bag or stick and kit bag) and the other an adapted backpack that incorporates a sleeve or straps to carry your stick. Personal preference dictates the choice.
Stick bags start out as sleeves to carry a single stick, usually with a pocket for a gumshield, keys or a bit of cash. As you move up the range bags get bigger and more pockets or compartments are added to enable you to carry more. For youngsters starting out the single sleeve option is usually just fine and some brands offer bags at start of their range that do a bit more besides.
Hockey backpacks are popular with anyone using a bike or also for youngsters for whom the bag can double up for other use. These are simply a backpack that have either straps on the side to hold your stick or (better still) an integrated sleeve that allows you to put your stick "through" the bag (more secure). Starter backpacks are equivalent in price to a mid range stick and kit bag but their more flexible use nature and the fact that some stickbags are long and tricky for smaller young players to handle makes them increasingly popular.
Inner Socks (sometimes called Shinliners) are a relatively new introduction to hockey. They are simply a stretchy thin sleeve that players wear under their shinguards to soak up the sweat that is generated in use. The purpose of this is that after training or matches the inner socks are washed and the dreaded "stinky shinguards" (caused by sweat and the build up of bacteria) when shinguards are not aired properly or allowed to dry is avoided! On a more serious note, they do have a high benefit to personal hygiene and the life of your shinguards.
Kitting Out FAQs
“My child has football shinpads - will they do?”
Probably to begin with, yes. As time rolls on though you may find out the hard way that these are not usually as protective as shinguards designed for hockey.
“Can I use a cheap, basic gumshield?”
There are a lot of basic, low cost, heat and bite style gumshields out there. As with any product though you get what you pay for and basic moulded gumshields will not give anything like the protection to a critical area like a specialist product from the likes of O-Pro and not really for much of a saving either. Equally important, O-Pro offer dental protection warranties, cheap alternatives do not.
"How do shinguards without straps stay in place?"
This style of guard is always pre-shaped for a closer fit. You just put them under your socks and provided your socks stay up your shinguards stay on.
"How do I know which size gumshield, shinguards or glove I need"
O-Pro gumshield come in two sizes; junior and senior. Typically children over 12 years of age move into the senior. You can find size guides for hand protection and shinguards elsewhere in our buying guides.