Buying Gear For the First Time
Many new goalies are overwhelmed with all of the different types of gear available to them. With all the choices of manufacturers for pads, masks, skates, sticks, and other vital accessories, it’s pretty common for a new goalie to become lost in a strange new world of jargon and overabundance of choices for every single piece of gear they’ll need. As a result, many new goalies lose focus on what is really important. The following three items should be at the top of your money list… not in terms of individual pricing, but more in line with “you get what you pay for”. We all like saving a buck, but there are three particular areas you’ll want to get absolutely the best gear you can afford; your mask, skates, and jock/jill.
Your head is irreplaceable, and should be treated accordingly. Flashy new pads may make you look great on the ice, but a busted melon and life with a feeding tube will quickly overshadow those impressive pictures on Facebook. Don’t think that since you are playing in the lowest level of men’s league hockey that a cheap mask/helmet will suffice. It’s quite common for upper level players to play down and bring the heat. You may not be seeing NHL quality shots, but a cheap mask can be the difference in whether or not you enjoy playing the position, or the reason you no longer play. Above all else, spend as much as you can on getting a good quality mask. Your neurosurgeon will thank you for it. You don’t have to go out and spend $1,000 on a complete custom mask, but plan on spending at least $300 to $400 for a decent off the shelf stock mask. Get some extra mask foam, too. It will come in handy for getting the best protection by “customizing” the mask for an optimal fit. Don’t worry about a fancy paint job or graphics just yet… a good stock mask for $400 offers ten times the protection that a $200 mask with a $200 paint job provides.
The second item you should not skimp on is your skates. You’re going to be on your feet for the entire game, so don’t forget to take care of them. It’s not so much about protection as it is comfort and support. The higher quality skates will have better arch and ankle support, will be heat moldable for a quicker break in and custom fit, and will also provide better protection. This is where the goalie meets the ice, and another area that should be a top priority when shopping for gear. Different manufacturers’ skates all vary in size, feel, and fit, so be sure to try on a few to see what you like best. Some goalies, myself included, even use custom heat molded footbeds. Make sure you are comfortable on your feet. This is another area that can ruin your time in net. Skating and positioning are 99% of playing this position; getting from A to B is no fun when your feet are hurting and your ankles are bowing inward.
The final item that is often over-looked, is your groin protection. I’ve actually worked with several youth goalies and one or two adult goalies in the past who had never even HEARD of a goalie cup. True story – one of my students took a shot in the groin in a scrimmage. While getting him off the ice for a breather, I asked him if it hit him in the goalie cup… he gave me the worst possible answer I can think of; “What’s a goalie cup? “ After a quick discussion with his mother, and a trip to the local pro shop, he was wearing one for the next practice. It’s a difficult lesson to learn, and one not soon forgotten. A $70 or $80 “cup” might seem a bit pricey, but it’s a lot more than just a “cup”. Most of the new generation of goalie cups have TWO cups, one floating inside the other, and also offer some lower abdomen protection with a heavy wide band in the front. No cup will protect you from EVERY situation, and there is no guarantee of being 100% pain free, but a high quality goalie cup is a must have, and one you’ll be glad you have the first time you take a shot to the crotch.
Keep these three items at the top of your list when you first go goalie shopping. You’ll be more comfortable and confident knowing that whatever happens, you’ve got the best protection where you need it most, and your feet will be thanking you for the support. Learning this position is difficult enough without being uncomfortable or nervous, so spend the money where it counts the most; your head, your feet, and your groin.