Choosing the Right Hockey Helmet

Your helmet is probably the most important piece of hockey protective equipment. It can help prevent significant head injuries, along with injuries to your face. In a sport like hockey, where there are thick rubber pucks flying around at fast speeds, body checks from physical players, and sticks waving all around, it’s essential that you have adequate protection for your head. With that in mind, below are the factors you should consider in order to get the right hockey helmet.

Check the Safety Certification

Choosing the Right Hockey Helmet
Image by McArthur is licensed with Creative Commons

One of the first things to look for when shopping for a hockey helmet is the certification. All USA Hockey sanctioned leagues require a certified helmet for players under 21, as does any high school playing under the Federation of High School rules. Players in the NCAA must also have a certified helmet.

Look for helmets certified by the HECC (Hockey Equipment Certification Council), which uses performance standards set by the CSA (Canadian Standards Association) and ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials). The HECC is an “independent volunteer organization for the purpose of selecting standards including test methods and other requirements for certifying playing equipment used in the sport of ice hockey.”

As you’re shopping, you should see a sticker on the helmet that denotes whether its certified. It’s also important to note that these certifications expire, especially if you’re shopping for a used helmet. The HECC certification lasts for 6.5 years, which is how long hockey helmets typically offer adequate protection.

Consider the Helmet Type

There are two main types of hockey helmets: cage and visor. There are benefits and drawbacks to both, including:

Cage

Pros:

  1. Maximum Protection: Cages provide the highest level of facial protection, shielding your entire face from high-velocity pucks, sticks, and collisions.
  2. Reduced Injury Risk: They significantly reduce the risk of facial injuries, including cuts, fractures, and dental damage.
  3. Compliance: Many youth and amateur leagues mandate cage usage for all players, ensuring a consistent safety standard.

Cons:

  1. Limited Visibility: Cages can obstruct your peripheral vision and may fog up, affecting your ability to see the puck, teammates, and opponents.
  2. Comfort: Some players find cages less comfortable due to heat buildup and the feeling of confinement.

Visor

Pros:

  1. Better Visibility: Visors offer superior visibility compared to cages, allowing for better tracking of the puck and play.
  2. Comfort: They are more comfortable in terms of breathability and reduced heat buildup.

Cons:

  1. Reduced Protection: Visors only cover the eyes and nose, leaving the rest of the face vulnerable to injury.
  2. Increased Risk: While safer than no facial protection, visors can’t prevent all facial injuries, such as high sticks or errant pucks.

Ultimately, the choice between a cage and a visor in hockey depends on your personal preference, playing level, and safety priorities. Safety should always be a top concern, but players at higher levels may opt for visors to improve visibility while accepting a slightly higher risk of facial injury.

Get the Right Fit

A properly fitting helmet is crucial for protection. To get the right fit, measure your head’s circumference using a tape measure just above your eyebrows. Then, try on different helmet sizes, starting with the size that matches your head circumference. The helmet should sit level on your head, with the front rim just above your eyebrows and the back of the helmet covering the base of your skull. Adjust the chin strap so it’s snug but not too tight. You should be able to open your mouth comfortably. For more information, check out our hockey helmet sizing guide.

Check for Comfort

A comfortable helmet is more likely to be worn consistently. Look for helmets with adequate padding, ventilation, and moisture-wicking properties. Ideally, you should shop for a helmet in person so that you can test it out before buying. However, if you don’t have a hockey equipment shop nearby, make sure the online retailer you’re using has a good return policy.

Some helmets are also easier to adjust than others. Try out different adjustments with your helmet before deciding it doesn’t fit well. Doing so can help avoid unwanted chaffing and give your skin more room to breathe without sacrificing safety. You may find that the right hockey helmet fits comfortably with just a few simple tweaks.

Inspect for Damage

Before buying or using a helmet, check it for any signs of damage, such as cracks, dents, or loose parts. A damaged helmet won’t provide proper protection. This is doubly important if you’re buying a used helmet, as its more likely to have experienced damage during the course of play. If you spot even a small amount of damage you should look for another helmet, as small problems can quickly grow into large ones and render your helmet unsafe.

Determine Your Budget

Finally, hockey helmets come in a range of prices. You can typically find basic helmets for around $60, while higher-end models can top out over $400. For newer players, you probably don’t need to spend towards the upper limit and a more basic helmet will work just fine. Determine how much you’re willing to spend, but remember that your safety should be a top priority, so don’t skimp on quality.

Taking Care of Your Hockey Helmet

Inspect your helmet regularly for signs of wear and tear. If you notice any damage, it’s essential to replace the helmet immediately. Helmets have a limited lifespan and may need replacement every few years, even if they don’t show visible damage. A good practice is to inspect your helmet after every game or practice, before you toss it back into your hockey bag.

Find the Right Hockey Helmet for You

Remember that the right helmet should provide both protection and comfort. Don’t rush the decision, and if possible, try on several options to find the one that fits you best and meets your safety needs. Your safety on the ice is worth the investment in a quality helmet.