Do Hockey Players Wear Shoulder Pads?

Posted on February 8, 2022 by Dan Kent
hockey goalie

Everyone knows that ice hockey is an incredibly physical sport and you may find yourself wondering how players protect themselves while on the ice. Hockey players have an assortment of equipment that they wear to ensure that they’re as safe as they can be during play.

Yes, hockey players at all levels wear shoulder pads as part of their gear. Shoulder pads are designed to protect a player from a wide range of on-ice impacts — such as blocking a puck, colliding with another player during a game, or being hit into the boards during a forecheck. Shoulder pads are one of the most important aspects of a player’s gear and they protect more than just the shoulders.

What Do Hockey Shoulder Pads Do?

Shoulder pads offer a significant amount of protection to the players’ bodies and they’re designed to absorb some of the impacts that players may experience while on the ice. While they obviously protect the shoulders, they are also designed to offer a level of protection to the collarbone, chest, back, and upper biceps.

The four main pieces of a shoulder pad set-up are:

  • Shoulder Caps
  • Bicep Pads
  • Chest Protector
  • Back Protector

While some shoulder pads are sleeker and more lightweight than others, they all feature the same four components. It can come as a surprise to some people who haven’t worn the pads before how much they are actually designed to protect.

What Shoulder Pads Do NHL Players Wear?

Photo by statschew licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0

If you’re wondering what type of shoulder pads the professionals wear — it’s often a modified version of what’s sold off the shelf. Many NHL players want their gear customized specifically to them, so they’re able to play their best game and have the most comfortable and lightweight fit.

When you’re favorite player gets checked into the boards, you can be sure that he’s thankful to be wearing his protective shoulder pads to help with the impact. The pads can allow him to resume playing the game instead of having to be stretchered off of the ice mid-game.

Individuals who are just starting out with playing hockey or who don’t play in a checking league may not want to invest in the more expensive modified versions. That’s totally fine — as the major hockey brands all offer dependable and high-quality options directly off the shelf as well.

How Long Do Hockey Shoulder Pads Last?

If you’re looking to invest in a set of shoulder pads, you’re likely wondering how long they should last. Assuming you take good care of them, they should last you up to 10 years.

Now, if you’re playing in the big leagues and consistently taking hits or dishing them out, you may find yourself needing to replace your pads more frequently due to wear and tear.

The velcro straps specifically tend to wear out quicker due to sweat and excess moisture, which makes them less effective over time. This is an easy and cheap enough replacement and you can continue playing with the same pads for years to come.

A good rule of thumb is that if you take good care of your equipment, it will take good care of you.

How To Choose Hockey Shoulder Pads

Depending on what position you play, you are likely to have different needs when it comes to your pads. Forwards often prefer a more lightweight and slimmer design — as they require a great deal of free-range movement.

On the other hand, defensemen are likely to look for a bulkier style so they can confidently block shots and check their competition. This position doesn’t require as much speed or nimbleness, so having thicker padding is an acceptable trade-off and one that saves defensemen from many injuries each season.

When you’re looking for pads, it’s important to measure the circumference of your chest. This will help you choose the proper size for your shoulder pads. You don’t want the pads to be too tight but they also need to be snug enough so they don’t move all over the place while you’re playing.

The major hockey brands such as Bauer, CCM, and Warrior will all have a variety of styles and fits and you’re sure to find one that suits you and feels comfortable during play.

How Much Do Hockey Shoulder Pads Cost?

Now that you understand the importance of this key aspect of your gear, you may want to know how much you’ll need to shell out for a set. If you’re just entering the sport of hockey — you can get a shoulder pad set up for under $50.

If you want to spend a little more after you get your feet wet in the sport, you could likely purchase a set in the $100-$200 range — depending on what features you prefer.

The price increase reflects the additional features you’ll find in the higher-end shoulder pads, such as plastic inserts and higher-density foam padding. If you’re playing recreational hockey, you may not find a need for such additions.

Shoulder Pads Offer You a Great Deal of Protection

If you yourself are a player, you know that your shoulder pads help you to absorb impact and keep you safe while on the ice. If you’re looking to get started with ice hockey — now you understand their importance and how to find the right set for you

Whether you spend $40 or $200 on your pads, you’ll be more protected than going without them. While they may feel bulky and restrictive at times, just remember why they’re there and how they very well may save your neck during your next game.

Shoulder pads are a key piece of a hockey player’s ensemble and without them, there would surely be a significant rise in on-ice injuries. Hockey is a very physical sport and it’s important to take care of your body so you can go out and play to the best of your abilities.

Dan Kent

About the author

Growing up in a hockey hotbed (Calgary, Alberta. And yes, I'm an Oiler fan), I decided to put my love and knowledge of the game to work. I started at five and am still playing today into my early 30s. By acquiring Brave Stick Hockey and rebranding it to Big Shot Hockey in 2023, I plan to teach people about this great game and educate them on the best equipment and history of the game. On a career level, I am in finance, running one of the largest financial websites in Canada,

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