Fitting a Player in the Right Shoulder Pads
1. Analyze your playing style. Are you a defense specialist, finesse forward or power forward? There are pads for each of these styles.
2. The second question is what level of play are you competing in? A beginner, a travel player or higher, or are you an old timer? The answers to these questions will dictate the type of shoulder pad protection you need. Feel free to ask teammates, other parents, coaches or others in the know what pads they like and/or recommend.
Shoulder pads come in various designs. Some are bigger for the big hitter and others are lightweight and offer total mobility for the playmaker, but at the expense of protection. You need to find which works for you. There is always a trade-off between mobility and protection. There are many features and designs that are available for any type of player.
Shoulder pads are built with various foam structures that offer different levels of protection and weight. The most common foam types are explained in more detail below.
Single-density - The single-density foam is most widely used in lower-end shoulder pads. It is a softer foam that is comfortable and fairly light. The single-density foam will offer the least protection.
Dual-density - Dual-density foams are a combination of softer single density foams joined together with a harder, lighter and more protective closed-cell foam. The softer foam will be closest to your shoulder to keep the comfort level high, while the harder foam is on the outside. Dual-density foams come in various protection levels depending on the amount of each foam that is used. Dual-density foam is the most widely used foam type as it offers the best combination of protection and weight at the best price.
HD foam - HD or high-density foams are becoming more widely used, in part because it allows manufacturers to bring down the price. HD foams are highlt protective and light. This foam offers the highest protection of the three types of foam and is normally used in conjunction with a much softer foam for comfort because HD foams are stiff and do not bend easily.
All cap designs on shoulder pads are made from high impact plastic. There are different sizes for different types of players. The big hitter will need a bigger shoulder cap to give full protection and maximum use of higher level protective characteristics. The finesse player will look for a pad that has smaller, low-profile caps to maximize agility and mobility. An important factor in the fit of the caps is how they are attached to the pad. Some are attached directly to the pad. Others are attached with short tethers; this design allows for more fluid movement and actually lets the cap float with the shoulder.
Some cool features are emerging in bicep protection design, such as heat moldable pads. Other cool features include innovative attachment designs and segmented pads that act as an armadillo shell to maximize coverage and mobility.
Sternum and Spine
The sternum protection is the most important part of a shoulder pad. This pad will protect the heart from taking a direct hit from a puck. There are various protection designs from the use of different foams to air or gel bladders to absorb the shock. The more segmented the sternum, the more mobility you will have. The spine is important for the players who are playing at a higher level or occupy the real estate in front of the opposing team's net. Repeated cross checks can take a toll on your back and you will want shock-absorbing materials to withstand season after season of punishment. Like the sternum protection, the more segmented this pad, the more mobility it will offer.
More thought has also gone into the clavicle design to help protect you from odd-angle hits and falling into the boards when hit from behind. Clavicle protection comes in various forms with some offering additional features like heat moldable pads.
Most shoulder pads come with an adjustable/removable belly pad. The use of this pad comes down to personal preference. The type of pant and amount of frontal protection may influence your decision. If you are a defenseman or like to block shots you may want to leave in.
The most important factor with shoulder pad liners is the type of material. There is no protection factor in the liner, so you want one that offers comfort. Higher-end shoulder pads will offer a more durable, better feeling material. Some manufactures use a silicon grip-print to lock the pad to the shoulder. Antimicrobial liners are becoming more widely used. These liners are treated to stop the growth of bacteria which cause that awful smell and cause skin irritations.
Editor's Note: Special thanks to HockeyX for the above article.
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