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How Safe is Hockey? The REAL Danger

Hockey is a thrilling sport to play. With big goals, incredible saves, and fast skating, hockey attracts athletes of all ages around the world. Are the risks and dangers involved in the sport holding you back from getting into the game? Curious about proper safety measures and protective equipment? This guide will outline all you need to know about hockey’s risks and how to protect yourself from them!

Though playing hockey does carry risk of injury, maximizing your knowledge of the sport will best prepare you for an injury-free game. A full body of fitted equipment is essential to your safety. Familiarity with ice skating will also keep you on your feet and allow you to dodge on-ice hazards. Having your head up while you’re on the ice is key to avoiding injuries from the puck, other players’ sticks, and collisions with opponents.

But don’t worry, body-checking and fighting are not allowed in nearly all recreational games.

Protective Equipment

If you are looking to play organized hockey in an indoor arena, you will need a full set of hockey equipment!

Hockey equipment is designed to protect you from on-ice injuries. Think from head to toe.

Start with a helmet for your head! The helmet can include a face-shield, cage, or half visor.

Your torso and arms are covered by shoulder pads, elbow pads, hockey gloves, and your jersey.

Hockey pants cover your waist and thigh region, under which an athletic supporter (or “jock strap”) is worn. Shin pads and hockey socks protect the rest of your legs, while your skates cover your feet.

Other items like a mouthguard and neck guard are required for youth hockey. Few adult players wear a neck guard, but many do still use a mouthguard to protect their teeth.

Goalie equipment is a somewhat different story, but it is similarly intended to protect goalies from the impact of shots.

It is very important to make sure that all your equipment fits properly. Each piece has its own sizing standards, so you may want to consult with a salesperson or those on your team with more experience – so your gear fits you properly.

Learning to Skate

If you or your child is new to ice skating, this aspect of the sport can initially pose danger.

Ice skating rarely comes naturally, so practice (and maybe even lessons!) is important for newcomers to ice hockey. Beginners run the risk of falling on the ice, which can cause injuries – be sure to always wear a helmet when you’re learning to skate.

Learning to skate with a hockey stick in-hand can also help beginners, because it assists with balance. 

Read these important tips if you’re moving from inline hockey to ice.

The Biggest Dangers: Pucks and Sticks

Other players’ shots and sticks are hazards in every game you’ll play.

The hockey puck weighs 6oz (170g), and when shot it travels very fast. For reference, imagine tossing around a one-inch tall, solid rock the size of your palm!

Blocking shots, even with equipment on, can leave bruises and, in some cases, break bones. Your equipment does provide padding, but remember – the puck is very hard!

Your feet are the most vulnerable to shots, even though your skates do offer some protection.

Also, be careful about catching or blocking shots with the palm of your glove. The exterior of the hockey glove is padded, but the palm is made only of a thinner layer of fabric.

If you watch professional hockey, players will be laying out to intentionally block shots. This is not expected of you in recreational or beer league hockey, because everyone is there to have fun and not get hurt.

High sticks from opponents are another serious hazard. You can eliminate this risk by wearing full facial protection in the form of a face-shield or cage.

Though players try to keep their sticks under control, accidental high-sticking does occur. Without full facial protection, you can lose teeth and get cut from high sticks.

Body Checking and Fighting

If your only knowledge of hockey is from the NHL… it may surprise you to learn that virtually all recreational hockey leagues outlaw body checking and fighting. This immediately reduces the risk of injury – however concussions are still a risk whenever you play hockey.

Youth hockey does permit body checking, but only once players are of a certain age – usually in their early to mid-teens. Fighting is not allowed in any youth hockey leagues.

You should keep in mind that incidental contact and collisions can still occur. Players skate fast, backwards, and in opposing directions, which can lead to inadvertent collisions.

Also bear in mind that a collision with the boards can be painful. Be wary of making risky manoeuvres that could involve you falling into the boards.

The net is another hazard. The net will move if you crash into it, but it is quite heavy and usually has pegs that assist with keeping it in place on the ice.

Proper Safety Measures

Keep your head up!This motto comes from teaching youth hockey players to be aware of incoming opponents who may be looking to check them.

But keeping your head up is a great way to ensure safety even in a non-contact hockey game. Not only does it allow you to see where your teammates are, but you can avoid collisions with everyone else on the ice.

Another tip: don’t daydream when you’re on the bench.

Most benches seat players with their heads above the boards. The puck’s movement is unpredictable, so if it rises high enough above the bench’s boards, the puck could be coming straight for your head!

Even when played correctly and safely, injuries can be a part of hockey. This guide makes you aware of the risks involved with playing the sport. However, keep in mind that these are potential risks. Most games are played safely and allow players to enjoy the high-skill team sport that is hockey. An awareness of these dangers and adherence to safe practices helps to reduce the chance of injury for you and your fellow players.