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HockeyNow Performance: The importance of properly fitted goalie equipment

By Chris Dyson on January 31, 2016

I see it all the time, equipment designed for an adult on a young goalie.

It makes it impossible to move properly and does not provide proper protection because the protection is not sitting in the right places.

Be sure to have your equipment properly fitted and sized. Manufacturers make gear in several sizes, but there are four basics. Of course kids grow differently and you might have a Junior-age goalie who is able to fit into Intermediate gear. As such, this is only a guideline. 


Youth Size: Gear proportioned to fit goalies up to about 8 or 9 years old and designed to stop the shots of similar aged players. Lightweight and flexible for the young kids, which means the coach cannot fire full out slap shots on a Novice goalie and not expect it to hurt. This is one reason kids become “puck shy”.

Junior Size: Gear proportioned to fit goalies aged 8 to 11 and designed to stop the shots of similar aged players. Again, this gear isn’t designed to stop the shots of older players. Junior gear is slightly more protective than Youth gear, as well as a bit heavier and stiffer. 

Intermediate Size: This is designed for a duel purpose. Firstly, it is designed to fit the child who is too big for junior gear but not big enough or strong enough to break in and use adult gear quite yet. Secondly, it is also designed with smaller goaltenders in mind, who might be playing with older players and need better protection but can’t fit or properly handle the overkill that would be Adult gear. 

Goaltenders age 12 and up can often handle Intermediate-sized gear, including some lower-level adult players. Female goalies, who are smaller in stature, use intermediate-sized gear. Putting a junior-sized player in intermediate gear because you want “the best” is often a mistake because the goaltenders maneuverability will suffer (as is true for all oversized and over-protective gear). 

Adult Size. There are varying degrees of protection within the adult size gear, from ‘Senior’, which is designed to be more cost effective and offers less durability and protection but really could be worn at almost any level. Most companies offer a mid-line adult product that is slightly more durable with more features.

Then the ‘Pro’ line, which is obviously top-end gear designed for the 200-pound pro goalie who might be on the ice every day seeing 100 mph shots regularly – not what a 14 year old really needs, but often buys. 

Wearing gear that is ‘”too much” for the goalie slows them down, reduces their ability to react properly, to effectively control rebounds and even to properly break the product in. Putting a 12 year old in pro-level pad or glove is completely unnecessary and actually counterproductive, yet we see it all the time. 


Head Protection: When it comes to masks I am adamant that parents buy a PROPER FIT. You absolutely cannot buy a mask or helmet to fit for the future.

Your brain is not something we can always fix and a simple blow to the head in a poorly fitted mask can cause damage that lasts a lifetime. I often hear the comment “oh, he’s not playing at a high level, so it doesn’t matter” 

It is even more likely that a goalie playing in a lower level will be run into by a player who does not possess the best skating ability. It only takes one crack of the head on the ice to do damage. Players can be hit with a shot or fall at any level, so do not fall into this thinking. 

I say it over and over, the level of hockey is not relevant, buy the best possible mask you can and base your decision on fit and level of protection first. Cheap pads, at worst, will result in a few bruises, a cheap mask can equal a lifetime of repercussions. 

The base price of the mask without paint or artwork should be your concern, the artwork cost has absolutely nothing to do with the mask and its ability to protect.

Choose the right mask first, only then consider if you have budget for artwork to be added. I have had parents tell me they bought the $600 mask because it was the best for their child, but later came to find out they actually had a $150 plastic mask and a $450 paint job. – Not smart, not logical. 

It is far better and safer to spend $600 on protection. I get it, the kids want to look cool, the parents want their child to have what everyone else has, but if its a choice between spending on a plain non-painted mask that fits and is a quality product, or the cheaper mask with the expensive paint job – buy the plain one that offers better fit and protection. 

Stick: The stick must fit the goalie. This is the number one piece of equipment that can ruin a stance and balance that a goalie must have. Never cut a stick ot buy one with room to grow. If it’s worn out in the heel or toe area, replace it because it can no longer properly do the job it is designed to do. 

Jock: I never understand parents who buy all the best gear and send their son out to play with a player’s jock (or a jill for girls). If you are a goalie you need to have a goalie jock, there are no options. If you don’t believe me, have your son shoot a few into dad’s “area”, he will soon understand that regardless of the goalie’s age it’s not somewhere you want to be hit without proper protection. Even the weakest shot can be very painful. Maybe those who choose to ignore this area of protection, don’t want grandkids?!

Throat Protection: All goalies must have a GOALIE throat collar that covers their neck and collarbone area and has a solid foam or plastic in the collarbone area. These are not mandatory everywhere but in my opinion they must be worn. This will protect against shots and skate cuts. Remember Clint Malarchuk? If not, do a quick YouTube search and the importance of this point will become clear. Viewer discretion advised, it is graphic and the most gruesome thing I have ever seen in sports. 

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By Chris Dyson| January 31, 2016
Categories:  Performance

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