Note: our buddy Nate from prostockhockey.com sent us over this piece about the best ways to break into what can be an expensive sport. Thanks Nate!
Shinny. Pond hockey. Backyard hockey.
If you’re fortunate enough to live on a lake or near a pond, or have invested in the proper backyard ice rink supplies to make your own skating surface, there’s no denying how enjoyable lacing up the skates outdoors can be. After all, that’s the origin of the game — and a special way to spend time honing skills and enjoying time with friends. But one thing that hockey players young and old must be aware of while playing on the outdoor rink or backyard pond is that safety rules must still be adhered to at all times.
Yes, hockey has a reputation for being an expensive sport. Aside from skates and sticks, there are helmets, pants, shoulder and shin pads and more that are required for use in organized play — and they all add up. Skating on the backyard rink is a little different, because there’s no governing body making sure you’re wearing the proper safety gear. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important.
It’s true that you can get away without some of the padding required in organized games (e.g. in a game of “shinny,” there’s the agreement between all players that they won’t raise pucks higher than the shins, so much of the above-the-waist padding can be shed), but here’s a look at some safety tips for skating on the outdoor rink:
Equipment for Outdoor Hockey
• The basics: Players skating outdoors will likely have at least hockey gloves and a helmet. Hockey gloves are essential because, even if the player isn’t wearing full gear, knowing how the stick feels with the gloves on is essential to having good hands on the ice. When buying hockey gloves, buying big with the intent to grow into them typically doesn’t apply. They’re a piece of equipment that needs to be sized properly at purchase, so puck-handling and grip won’t be affected. Helmets, on the other hand, are often purchased in larger sizes because most of today’s models are adjustable. For youth players, we always recommend a full-face shield on the helmet, too.
• Think used: There are ways to curb the costs of playing hockey while still getting a quality piece of equipment. That’s right — think used. Many hockey stores have a “used” division where gear is available at discounted prices. You can also bargain-shop by attending some of the manufacturer equipment sales, where older models are typically sold for lower prices to make way for new models. Talk to people that you know in the hockey community and see if they know of any good deals or of anyone who has old gear they’re looking to part with.
• Skates: Hockey skates are essential, whether you’re playing hockey on a team or just skating out on the backyard rink. A word of warning for the young hockey player — refrain from purchasing top-of-the-line skates during the prime growth and development years. That’s because young hockey players have a tendency to go through skates quickly as their feet grow during this period. So why pay top dollar for the best skate on the market, only to have outgrown it in nine months? This is another great example of where buying used can come in handy. If buying used isn’t your thing, opt for the good, not great, skate model that won’t break the bank, but will suffice for the young player.
So yes, while hockey is expensive, there are ways to cut costs and still get good value — whether your youngster is playing on an ice rink or in the backyard. It just takes the know-how to get the best bang for your buck.
About the author: Nate Puskaric is the Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey (prostockhockey.com), an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago and graduated from Michigan State. Nate is passionate about hockey and the Blackhawks and is an expert in hockey gear and equipment.