Guest blogger Erin Wozniak informs readers about some helpful tips to tailor your hockey gear to perform and endure the rigors of the hockey season and beyond.
Once you’ve spent a good chunk of change on skates, sticks, gloves, pads and a helmet for hockey, players need to be able to get the most mileage out of their equipment. Professional ice hockey players use every chance they can to tinker with or spruce up their gear in order to get an advantage on the ice. Here’s a few ways to get the most out of every piece of gear in your hockey bag.
From day one of a player’s hockey training, everyone learns how to tape the blade and butt ends of a stick in order to keep moisture out of the wood and retain a firm grip on the shaft. Most players, however, may not realize how you can tape a stick in different ways. Patrick Kane prefers to tape his stick toe to heel, rather than the most common method of starting at the heel and taping outward. Fellow Blackhawk Duncan Keith uses ribbons of tape layers down the entire shaft of his stick so that he can feel the perfect release point on a shot.
Tying your laces around the back of your skates represents one of the great myths of ice hockey. While some believe that this practice provides better stability, the boot actually has to flex more with each lace farther from the socket eye. Worse still, the pressure on the tendon guard that protects your heel from pucks and skates prevents you from moving your feet and ankles, diminishing range of motion. Since skates guards aren’t designed to move forward, just back to offer support, tying the laces around the back of the skate will quickly destroy the most valuable part of your gear.
Just like a brand-new baseball mitt, a pair of hockey gloves fresh off the factory floor will feel very cramped and uncomfortable. There’s a bevy of options for breaking in a pair of new gloves, with most players electing to stickhandle for a few days until they feel soft, flexible and responsive. You can take this a step further by soaking the palms of new hockey gloves in water overnight (don’t worry about ruining the material — hockey gloves are resistant to water and sweat). Allow them to completely dry and then rub them with a spoonful of vegetable oil in order to get a silky smooth feeling. If the gloves still feel too stiff, try baking them in a skate oven for no more than a few minutes.
For most of hockey history, players didn’t wear helmets at all. In fact, the NHL didn’t mandate helmet use until 1979 and allowed some players to continue playing without a helmet. The helmet appears to be the most straightforward piece of equipment of all: put it on and forget about it. Doing some preventative maintenance after each game will extend the lifespan of your helmet. Carry a small screwdriver in order to tighten the screws that secure chinstraps, cages and visors before or after each match. The more contact your helmet absorbs, the more the screws begin to come loose, creating cracks in the helmet or falling out entirely, a dangerous situation when you’re on the ice with pucks traveling 80 miles an hour.
Similar to helmets, most players wear a set of shoulder pads without giving this piece of gear a second thought. While you can use one set of shoulder pads for years, decades, or perhaps even an entire career, getting the right fit first should depend just as much on comfort as flexibility. Remember that forwards want lighter pads with a good range of movement, in order to give their shot more velocity, while defensemen need larger pads that cover more area to give better protection against incoming shots.
While no solution yet exists to completely clear the ubiquitous “hockey smell,” dousing your gear in bleach and allowing it to dry in the sun will kill the bacteria that make sweat-soaked gear smell terrible. Remember not to keep your gear in a hot area, such as the trunk of a car, as this only exacerbates the smell and leads to mold growth.
Erin Wozniak is the Director of Marketing for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. PSH offers new and “dented” gear to help you find what you’re looking for at an affordable price. Erin is passionate about hockey and remains a devoted Chicago Blackhawks fan.