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If you think that the helmet is the most important piece of your hockey equipment… you’re correct! Protecting your head should be your top priority on the ice. For this reason, you should make sure that your helmet meets the required safety standards. For example, you might be wondering when and how often you should replace your helmet. Or maybe you’ve heard rumors that helmets have expiration dates. We’ll look into everything you need to know on the topic right here!
Hockey helmets expire because over time they can become less effective at protecting your head from injuries. Helmets can wear down and deteriorate from frequent use and aging. You should replace your helmet if it is damaged or expired. Not doing so can increase your chance of being injured if you’re hit in the head or fall on the ice.
When To Replace your Helmet?
- When the certification stickers have expired
- When there is visible damage
- When it no longer fits your head firmly
- When the foam is missing or cracked
When Did Players Start Wearing Helmets?
In today’s hockey world, wearing a helmet is a standard and unquestioned part of playing the game. This was not always the case, however. Until the late 1970s, hockey players went helmetless. It was only in 1979 that the NHL made helmets mandatory for the players.
At first, players were permitted to sign a liability waiver to avoid wearing a helmet. The last player to go without a helmet was Craig MacTavish, who retired in 1997. Early NHL helmets were a far cry from the helmets of today. New York Islanders forward Butch Goring was famous for his outdated helmet full of gaps and holes.
Today, helmets are recognized for their vital role in protecting the head from collisions, pucks, and sticks. With concerns about concussions also on the rise, helmets have never been more important, (How safe is hockey?). Pair your helmet with a face shield or cage for full head and facial protection on the ice! Visors protect your eyes while full shields protect your face and teeth.
The NHL this season (2019/20) even implemented a rule that forces players who lose their helmet to either retrieve it or immediately return to the bench. Safety first. Especially with high sticks and checks.
Why Do Helmets Expire?
Developments in helmet design and technology can change over a period of years. An uncertified helmet may also prevent you from participating in certain leagues. In any case, it is necessary to have an awareness and knowledge of helmet safety and regulations. The number one reason helmets expire is for your safety. If your helmet is beyond its expiration date, you should replace it to guarantee the well-being of your brain.
Over time, helmets can be damaged. This can include cracks, imperfections, deterioration of the plastic, and rust. The helmet’s interior padding can also deteriorate and harden, which can alter the intended safe fit of the helmet. The helmet should fit comfortably, but snugly, so watch for this change!
Dramatic changes in helmet technology are less common today than they used to be. Over just a few decades, helmets went from the simple plastic covers of the 1970s and 80s to the padded and trustworthy ones that players wear today. But that doesn’t mean that improvements aren’t being made on a year-to-year basis. With plenty of focus on efforts to reduce concussions, researchers, writers, and former players are regularly testing helmet changes.
Is Your Helmet Certified?
Helmet certifications vary depending on where you live. Some countries require up-to-date helmets that are within stated expiration dates. Others look only for a general safety acknowledgment that approves the helmet at the time of its making. In the United States, the Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) determines the expiration date.
The HECC usually certifies helmets for six to seven years from their manufacture date. After this date, leagues requiring certified helmets will not allow your helmet to be used. In Canada, the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) approves helmets, but it does not give them expiration dates.
For European players, helmets will acquire a Conformité Européenne or “CE” sticker that certifies them. This mark acknowledges that the helmets, which are primarily made by North American companies, are safe for use in the international market. Certification details are stated on stickers placed on the back of the helmet. Don’t remove these stickers, otherwise, your helmet won’t be recognized as certified.
In sum, there can be several reasons for you to replace your helmet. If it is past its expiration date, absolutely replace the helmet. If it is damaged, worn down, or doesn’t fit you properly, any longer, it may also be time to prioritize your safety and get a new helmet. Even if you live in a country that doesn’t apply expiration dates to helmets, you should still be mindful of the importance of a safe and proper helmet.
Check out our review: If you’re looking for the best hockey helmet.