How should hockey shoulder pads fit?


When you, or your kids, play hockey, protection is always present in your mind. We strive to find the perfect balance between the proper safety level and the right amount of mobility and lightness. With shoulder pads, it’s no different. As hockey evolves into a faster game, the need for the perfect-fitting shoulder pads is more present than ever.

Hockey shoulder pads should fit directly on top of your shoulders. They should not point downwards or upwards, as this indicates that the gear is either too big or too small.

The torso protection should meet the top of your hockey pants, while the bicep protection should cover any gaps but not interfere with the elbow pads. These rules apply to youth and kid players as well.

Because shoulder pads need to fit as perfectly as possible, there are plenty of sizes in the market. Most manufacturers provide a sizing guide, and several stores have their own general guidelines.

If you chose adequately, you wouldn’t even feel your pads. But ill-fitting protection can interfere with your game, so read to find out how to precisely select the right shoulder pads.

What are hockey shoulder pads?

Hockey shoulder pads work as a protection for your upper body. They provide padding and cover for critical areas such as your chest, shoulders, ribs, and abdomen. While some manufacturers offer variations, most shoulder pads will have a collar bone protector, shoulder caps, bicep pads, rib guards, and an abdominal pad.

You can adjust them with Velcro straps, and they usually last for many years when you properly care for them. Most models will come in small, medium, or large, for Youth, Junior, and Senior, but these categories vary, depending on the manufacturer.

USA Hockey Rules demand that all players wear protective equipment for games, which means that Youth and Junior skaters have to wear shoulder pads. So, since even the youngest have to use them, it’s best to learn how to measure them as precisely as possible.

How to measure hockey shoulder pads?

The best way to measure hockey shoulder pads is to use a soft measuring tape. Measure the circumference of your chest, about 1″ below the armpits. The result, combined with an age range, should give an idea of which size to buy.

You can use the following guide from Ice Warehouse to help you decide. Keep in mind that this is a general guideline, and you might need to test the pads before you buy them.

Pad SizeHeightChest
Youth SM3’2″ – 3’11”20″ – 23″
Youth MD3’6″ – 3’11”22″ – 25″
Youth LG3’10” – 4’4″24″ – 27″
Junior SM4’4″ – 4’7″26″ – 29″
Junior MD4’5″ – 4’11”28″ – 31″
Junior LG4’10” – 5’3″30″ – 34″
Senior SM5’4″ – 5’8″32″ – 38″
Senior MD5’6″ – 5’11”36″ – 41″
Senior LG5’9″ – 6’2″39″ – 43″
Senior XL5’11″+41″+

Don’t hold your breath, as this might add unnecessary width. Also, do not measure when sitting down. It’s best to take the measurements while standing up, with your arms at your sides.

Once you have taken these measurements, be sure to try them. Buying this kind of equipment online will not guarantee a perfect match.

A proper fitting pad will have the shoulder caps fit right on top of the shoulders. While the rule of thumb is that the bottom of the torso protection should meet with the top of your hockey pants, there are differing opinions to ensure the best adjustment.

Some say that the torso protection should be 1″ above the pants when standing up. This will allow the pads to have clearance when skating and slightly bent. Regardless of your personal preference, you should always aim to have as much of your body protected.

Knowing these rules, one additional tip for when you are fitting shoulder pads is bringing your hockey pants and elbow guards. Sure, it might be uncomfortable, but it’s another way to ensure a perfect fit.

How to know your shoulder pads don’t fit right?

According to Hockey Monkey, clear signs tell you that the shoulder pads are either too big or too small.

If your shoulder pads are too big, then you will notice that:

  • The neckline sags, exposing your collarbone
  • The guards droop off the tops of your shoulders and point downwards
  • The bottom of the torso protection overlaps with the hockey pants
  • The bicep protection interferes with the elbow pads
  • If your shoulder pads are too small, then you will notice that:
  • The shoulder caps point upwards
  • The neckline digs into your neck
  • You can’t raise your arms overhead or have other mobility restraints
  • There’s too much skin exposed on the torso and arms

When any of these happen, the shoulder pads aren’t the right size. But, this might happen more frequently to younger skaters. So, what can you do with Youth skaters and their pad size?

How to fit shoulder pads on youth players?

It might be tempting to buy shoulder pads that are bigger to last longer. But, as you have read in this article, size is critical with this protective gear. The Chicago Tribune has written some tips and advice for buying equipment for younger players.

Even though kids will outgrow their gear, it’s always recommended that you buy shoulder pads that fit them correctly. Players have to get used to playing with properly fitting equipment from early, plus safety is the number one priority with the little ones. Most parents will find themselves changing shoulder pads before every season.

Knowing that this piece of equipment is so essential for protection, price is a factor that comes into play, especially when you have to change it frequently.

How much do shoulder pads cost?

Many shoulder pads brands are out there, but the most popular are Bauer, CCM, Sher-Wood, and Warrior. At Hockey Monkey, when it comes to Senior pads, one of the cheapest models is the Sher-Wood 5030 HOF, which is reminiscent of old school gear, with laces in some parts, instead of Velcro. At $55, many users have reviewed it positively.

Brands like Bauer and CMM have most of their more common models range from $70 to $100 for mid-level products and over $140 for top-of-the-line pads. Top-tier shoulder pads like the Bauer Vapor X2 and the CCM Super Tacks AS1 can go for $200.

Should pad costs for Youth

Youth protective gear is less expensive, and you can find models starting at $25 in stores like Pure Hockey. Some examples include the Pure Hockey PH1, and the CCM Blues Learn to Play Pads, both with a $25 price tag.

The most expensive Youth shoulder pads will cost from $45 to $70. You can find cheaper Youth hockey gear in stores like Sideline Swap, where models are going for as low as $10.

While buying shoulder pads for younger players can be a hassle, as they need constant replacement, once a player stops growing, it’s easy. It’s a vital piece of protective equipment that can last a long time if you properly care for it.

Shoulder pads will not only protect you from a hit, but they can also provide padding against shots, cover vital areas like your torso and kidneys, and might even cushion a fall. As more and more organizations make player safety a priority, hockey players have protective items like shoulder pads more in mind than ever before.

Now, when choosing your next shoulder pads, you have all the tools you need to select the right one. And, if you are a hockey parent, now you know what to look for when changing your kids’ gear for the next season.

Clinton Holley

Clinton has three boys along with his wife Maria. Each of his three boys play hockey. He continues to incorporate his family and his love of hockey into his career as a pediatrician.

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