Shoulder pads protect the shoulders, biceps, chest, and upper part of the back. Some players prefer bulky shoulder pads while others prefer shoulder pads that barely protect anything (better mobility). For younger players, we recommend shoulder pads that offer good protection, but make sure they are not too big that it restricts the child from moving.
Shoulder pads have a few different purposes. They cover key areas on the upper body including your shoulder, collar bone, spine, sternum, ribcage, and bicep. They do this by using a combination of mid- and high-density foams, as well as plastics in some key areas.
The most common brands are:
- Bauer (Supreme, Vapor, Nexus)
- CCM (, JetSpeed, QuickLite, Super Tacks)
- Warrior (Alpha, Dynasty)
- Easton (now owned by Bauer – Stealth, Synergy)
Other companies like Graf, STX, Winnwell, Powertek, Tron, DR, Sher-Wood, etc. also make shoulder pads, but this market is changing rapidly. Easton was recently acquired by Bauer and will likely be discontinued, while Graf is going out of business in North America and may only be found on clearance. Brands like Tron and Powertek are entry-level “budget brands.” Sher-wood is best known for its retro style, minimalist shoulder pads, but makes good modern ones as well.
Shoulder Pad Sizing & Fit
There are several aspects to the fit of a shoulder pad. It should sit so the shoulder caps rest on the curvature of your shoulders, and should also cover your rib cage and collar bone. Don’t worry if it doesn’t cover your entire stomach – this would decrease mobility and be quite uncomfortable to play in. Remember that your hockey pants will come up to the top of your hips, removing much of this gap.
Signs that your shoulder pads are too big:
- Neckline droops, exposing collar bone
- Pulling neckline to one side can expose shoulder through the neck hole
- Shoulder caps look droopy, centered on the deltoid muscle rather than the shoulder
- Bottom edges of pad extend well past the rib cage
Signs that your shoulder pads are too small:
- Neckline interferes with comfort and mobility of the neck
- Top of shoulder caps point directly upwards rather than outwards
- Raising arms above head causes shoulder caps to pinch in towards face
- Bottom edges of pad leave substantial amount of rib cage exposed
With properly fitting equipment the should be little to no gap between the glove, elbow pads, and shoulder pads. If you have an overlap then something may be too big, and if there are large gaps than something may be too small.
Recommendations When Buying Shoulder Pads
Youth hockey players are required to wear shoulder pads, children grow quickly and will need new shoulder pads every few years. Always check the fit before the beginning of the season.
Buying used shoulder pads is a great way to save money. Make sure both bicep guards (and the belly flap, if applicable) are attached, and all straps are intact with good working velcro.