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Get in Gear and Stay Fit

November 25, 2011 General No Comments

Get in gear and stay fit
By Wayne Anderson

They’re some of the oldest questions in hockey—especially roller hockey: How do I know if my son/daughter’s skates fit right? Is my stick too long or too short? The answer to these and other fitting equipment questions will be explained below. Just keep on reading, and learn how to size yourself up.

There are some general guidelines to properly fitting your equipment, but personal preference is also a factor once the player wearing the equipment becomes slightly advanced. Some of the basic do’s and don’ts of fitting equipment are listed below.

1) If you don’t know, ask. And make sure to ask someone who knows more than you do and is not just pretending to know or isn’t really sure.

2) Do not oversize the equipment! Too many times I hear parents say “Give me a size larger so Johnny will grow into it.”

Yes, equipment is expensive, but so are the medical bills that often come with improper fitting equipment.

3) Make sure you can return the equipment. Unused, of course. If you don’t try something on when you buy it—and then try it on later only to find it does not fit—you should be able to return it. Be extra certain you have a return privilege when mail-ordering equipment.

Equipment division

John Traks, a hockey player and the proprietor of J.T. Sporting Goods in Staten Island, NY, suggests that we can divide hockey equipment into the following three basic categories: skates, player equipment, and goalie equipment.

Let’s take a look at each individual piece of equipment in order to give you an overview on sizing. Remember, this is just a guideline, and all equipment should be properly fitted by a retailer authorized to sell that equipment.


Both goalie and player skates should be fitted properly by allowing the player to try the skate on unlaced. Traks recommends the player put the skate on (unlaced), move his or her foot to the front of the skate so that the toes are just touching the inside front of the boot. Then if you can place more than one index finger behind the player’s heel, the skate is too big.

For more advanced players, the player should put the skate on, lace it properly, and stand on the skate to see if their toes hit the front of the skate while in a relaxed position, if they do then the skate is to small. If the player can wiggle his or her toes, and if the toes just touch the front of the skate when outstretched, then the fit is correct.

Some of the major problems with properly fitting skates is not just the size of the skate, but with the width and lacing techniques as well. Traks warns that skate manufacturers can vary by as much as a full size, and that stitched boots (usually leather type) and molded (plastic type) vary greatly in their sizing. Generally, a molded boot skate will fit in the player’s shoe size (not sneaker size) or above, while a stitched boot skate will be one-half to a full size below the player’s shoe size. Width is important in sizing also, so be aware of the width of the boot you are buying.

Even the great Wayne Gretzky has admitted to lacing his skates improperly, which has led to some foot problems for him. In lacing, the first three laces (those closest to the toe) should be laced snugly, while the last three (those closest to the ankle) should be tied a little tighter.

I often see players and parents with a lace hook, pulling furiously on the laces trying to get them as tight as possible. Snug, secure fit is all you are looking for. If you get tingling or itching in your foot, or any type of pain in the arch of your foot while skating, it is probably due to improperly laced skates rather than improperly fitting skates.

Fitting is not always that easy. Some skate manufacturers only make full sizes in some of their skates (usually the lower end skates). If you happen to fall in that half-size, you are out of luck—and might want to try a different style or manufacturer.

Again, try and have your skates fitted by a professional at least once, just to insure that you’re skating in the proper size boot. Avoid the medical and performance problems improper fitting skates bring with them.


Player equipment

This category will cover all the equipment, other than skates, used by both forwards and defenseman.

Helmets (including face shields). The helmet protects two of the most important parts of the body—the head and face. Traks recommends a helmet that is comfortable and fits snugly, but not too tight. Most helmets are adjustable, and with the fact that the head (compared to the rest of the body) doesn’t grow that quickly, you should get good use of whichever helmet you buy. The “cage” or “shield” should fit comfortably and allow as much peripheral vision as possible. Regardless of anything else, the single most important factor in selecting a helmet is choosing one that will protect you. Make sure that the helmet is either HECC (Hockey Equipment Certifying Council) or CHA (Canadian Hockey Association) approved. These are organizations that test hockey equipment for safety.

Also make sure that the straps which come with your helmet are used and secured. Too many times I see players skating around with the chin strap just dangling in the wind. Why is this a no-no? Because the helmet can not protect you if it flies off of your head during play or when you hit the boards, surface or concrete.

Sticks. Player preference plays a larger role in choosing a stick than with any other piece of equipment. Just go into any store and see the hundreds of different models and types of stick on hand. The general rule of thumb on the length of the stick is that with your skates on, and the stick on the toe, the end of the shaft of the stick should come between the chin and the mouth of the player. Off skates the length should be to the player’s nose.

Again, personal preference comes into play. Defenseman, along with more upright skaters, usually like their sticks longer, while forwards, or players who stickhandle a lot, usually like their sticks a little shorter.

For the little ones, use a Junior stick rather than cutting down a full-size stick. The weight and blade dimensions of Junior sticks are much more suited for youngsters.

Gloves. The basic fit requirement of a glove is just that it be comfortable. If your fingers hit in the front of the glove then it is too small.

There are basically two different types of manufactured gloves, and their fit is different. Traks points out that if the glove is manufactured in North America, the glove will generally have a loose type fit to it. If the glove is manufactured overseas, the glove will probably have a tighter feel to it. This feel of fit is the player’s personal preference and not so important for first time or beginning roller players.

The biggest difference in gloves concerns the cuff, the part of the glove that creates the opening we stick our hand into. Some players enjoy a shorter cuff and others like a longer cuff—again, it’s the player’s preference. Traks points out, however, that no matter what type of cuff you choose, you need to match that with the type of elbow pad you wear. The reason being that if you choose to wear a short-cuff glove and do not wear an elbow pad that has forearm protection to it, you have a gap in protection. These “gaps” are areas of concern and are potential injury areas to watch out for.

Wayne Anderson is Managing Director of Huron Hockey’s roller hockey schools.

This first appeared in the 12/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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