Hockey is an expensive sport. We all want to save money on equipment but you may not know what gear is good or safe to buy used. So let’s break it down. For you goalies out there check out the goalie version.
What you should buy new
Helmets should always be bought new. They may seem expensive, but it’s the most important piece of protective equipment. You don’t have to spend $300, in fact many NHL players still wear the Bauer 4500 which costs around $70. You are mostly paying for fit and comfort, so chose the one that fits the best. contrary to popular belief, Helmets do not prevent concussions. They try to reduce your risk of concussions, but mostly protect from other head injuries like lacerations and impacts from elbows, pucks, sticks, etc. The most important thing when choosing a helmet is fit. You want it to fit snug but not uncomfortable. you should have tiny bit of room for your head to rotate but not enough to where it can be shaken off. If you buy a helmet similar to the Bauer 4500 it may feel stiffer with the VN foam. It just takes some time to break in for the really comfortable fit. After one large blow to the head or a few minor ones you will want to replace that helmet. So with a used helmet you can’t ensure the safety of it. If you are just starting out and want to make sure you like hockey, you can buy a used helmet but I would recommend getting a new one as soon as possible. If you must buy used make sure it was barely used with no scratches or dents. Just make sure it fits.
Personally I would not buy used gloves but they can be bought used. While they are perfectly safe to use you may not want someone else’s dirty hockey hands in your gloves. You can get pretty cheap gloves which may be a better alternative. You can also have your gloves re-palmed which can bring new life to them or if you do decide to buy used. Many players keep their gloves until the palms get crusty or have holes which may be unpleasant. Most of the time the most wear is on the palms so as long as the rest of the glove is in good condition they are good to use. Most gloves offer foams and often plastics for protection. Make sure none of these are missing. Your gloves should fit with a very slight overlap with your elbow pads, but you should still have full rotational motion of your wrists. Its okay to have a few inches between your gloves and elbow pads but be wary of slashes. You can fill that space with a set of slash guards or arm bands.
This one is pretty self explanatory. Get yourself a new jock!
What you can buy used
Pretty much everything else you can buy used but let’s break it down and see what to look for in used equipment. Some pieces of equipment is better new but still can be bought used. The best time to buy used gear is last August – Early September as people return to hockey and want to replace their old gear.
Shoulder pads can definitely be bought used. As long as they fit and don’t smell they will be fine. Check for loose or missing straps which may need a repair. A few places will repair them for you for a minimal fee. Or if you’re handy, you can repair it yourself; a sewing machine helps. You can wash your shoulder pads in a front loading washing machine with regular detergent or my personal favorite Nikwax Tech Wash. Or you can make Hockey Soup1.
The advantage to buying newer model shoulder pads is that they are much more comfortable than its predecessors. They offer soft foams and pads for comfort as well as plastics for protection. They are more form fitting and help with maneuverability which still giving you plenty of protection. If you’re in a checking league, you may want to go with new pads as they wont be broken down. The fit is personal preference whether new or used. You might prefer a minimalist pad like the old school Sherwood 5030, or a thick tank like pad like the Bauer 1X. Choose whichever one fits comfortable and fits your needs and your budget. There’s no upside or downside to a used vs new shoulder pad.
You may prefer new elbow pads to used ones. Since they usually touch your skin they can get pretty gross after a long time of wear. Similar to shoulder pads, they are personal preference. They usually come in two styles, a 2-piece or 3-piece. The 2 piece has the elbow cup and lower section connected whereas the 3 piece has a break below the elbow cup for a bit more maneuverability. Make sure the fit is snug and doesn’t overlap too much with your gloves and shoulder pads. So you will need to bring your gloves and shoulder pads with you for the best fit.
If you are buying used ones, make sure there is still plenty of protection in the elbow cup and there are no cracks. The foams can break down over time. Check for loose or missing straps which may need a repair. The same places will repair that for you just like the shoulder pads; or repair them yourself. You can also wash your shoulder pads in a front loading washing machine add it to your hockey soup1.
Pants can be definitely bought used. I would absolutely recommend used pants for you new players. As they can be quite expensive, and although a necessary piece of equipment, other pieces of equipment should take precedent (i.e. helmet, skates). Pants do break down and the liners wear out but as long as it’s in decent enough condition you can buy them used. Because pants may be in contact with a lot of water (or ice), as well as sweat, they tend to be on the smellier side so be wary of that. Make sure there’s no smell and missing straps or laces. You can toss your pants in a front loading washer or in a hockey soup1.
Shin pads can also be bought used. In fact some older models like Jofa or Reebok’s K series are sometimes better than some modern shin pads, even used! They were a favorite by many NHL players and pros. As long as the plastic doesn’t have any damage or cracks they will be just fine. Check the bottom for rips and/or damage. If not you’re good to go! Some higher end pads come with removable liners which make it easier to clean them. Especially when new, you just toss the liners with your wash. Although you can put shin pads in the washing machine I would recommend using hockey soup1 over the washing machine. Because of the exposed plastic, it is more separable to damage. The fit depends on if you flop your skate tongue or not. Bring your skates with you when you buy your shin pads to get the perfect fit.
Skates can be bought used. Skates will be your most expensive piece of gear so buying used can be a great option. Many players, myself included bought skates that just don’t feel right and sell them while still in excellent condition for far under the retail price. If you are a larger player and need stiffer skates but don’t want to sell out the cash, check out the used market. One area of controversy is buying Pro player skates. The pros get custom skates specifically designed for their feet. Not just the custom heat molding. While you may wear the same size and can bake out some minor changes they will still not be designed for you. While they are a great option to get some pro level features, I would recommend against it. You can always try them on and see if they fit. You never know, you might get a Like Mike situation. New skates are always preferable so you get a perfect fit but used is definitely an option.
I am a huge fan of used sticks. They can get expensive and you may just want one as a backup. Check for any major chips, cuts or structural damage to the shaft and blade. If it’s taped ask if you can remove it before you buy it, to check for damage. Tap along the shaft and listen for a consistent sound. The pitch may change but listen for something unusual. Don’t buy sticks with “rain sticking”, where when you flip it over it sounds like a rain stick. If you hear that, take the butt cap out and try to dump out whatever is rattling around the shaft. If nothing comes out but it’s still rain sticking, the blade is damaged internally.
The benefit of used sticks is that you can get to try sticks that might be out of your price range. With a few cosmetic problems you can still try it. There are companies who specify in repairing sticks as well. So you can get high end models for half the price. Like my friends over at the Hockey Stick Man.
Jerseys & Socks
Another great way to save some money is buying used jerseys and hockey socks. Many stores like Play-It-Again Sports offer great deals on them for a few bucks. All you need is a quick toss the wash and you’re good to go.
Where to buy used gear
There are a bunch of places to get used gear. Check out your local Play-It-Again Sports, which specializes in used gear, not only hockey. And they are literally everywhere across the US and Canada. They have very knowledgable staff and usually tons of gear. If you sell gear there you can get store credit for more good stuff.
Another great place for used gear is Sideline Swap. Its a platform for selling new and used gear. It’s super easy to buy and sell gear. I have used them many times. For 10% off your first purchase send the order number and STICKGURU10 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for their hockey stick section. Gear link coming soon.
To learn more about how to clean gear click here.
1 Hockey Soup is a way to wash your gear if you don’t have access to a large washing machine or are worried about your gear getting ruined. Read the recipe here.