Regardless of if you’ve been playing hockey for years or have only taken an interest in it recently, you realize the criticality of using the right protection when you’re on the ice.
You’re at risk of getting hurt throughout the game. Slashes, shots, cross-checks, and body checks are only the beginning. You also have to worry about staying protected during collisions and falls – which are bound to happen. It’s the nature of the game.
Buying the right shoulder pads might seem like a straightforward process initially. However, when you get into researching and shortlisting products, you’ll find yourself swamped due to the sheer volume of options.
Furthermore, if you don’t know how to tell the difference between a quality hockey shoulder pad and a bogus one, you’ll end up wasting hard-earned money.
Don’t worry, though – we’ve got you covered. We highlight seven of the best hockey shoulder pads money can buy in this post.
But before we get into our list of proven hockey shoulder pads, here’s a detailed guide on what you must consider when picking out shoulder pads.
Shoulder Pad Components
Shoulder pads are made of six components, each of which serves a different purpose. Learning about the components and knowing where you need protection is a great place to start if you’ve never shopped for a shoulder pad before.
The six shoulder pad components are:
- Shoulder Caps: These keep your shoulders protected from the heavy bumps made during a match. Shoulder caps are typically made from hard plastic, enabling the caps to absorb the brunt of the impact. Since the shoulders take most of the hits in hockey, the shoulder caps are the most critical component of a shoulder pad.
- Collar Bone Protector: This component sits across the top of the shoulder pads and connects the shoulder caps. It is another vital piece of protection since a broken collar bone will leave you incapacitated for months.
- Bicep Protector: The components right below the shoulder caps are called the bicep protectors. These are fastened to your arms with Velcro and are not constructed from hard plastic to ensure unobstructed motion.
- Sternum Protector: The sternum is in the middle of your chest, and the centerpiece of a pair of hockey shoulder pads is called the sternum protector. It works to protect your torso from injury.
- Spine Protector: You can think of the spine protector as a sternum protector for your back. It runs from just under your traps to roughly five inches above your hips. It protects your spine and kidneys from injury.
- Rib Protector: The rib protector goes around the sides of your body and typically fits snugly. The fit is adjustable, and while most products have a soft foam rib protector, some shoulder pads incorporate hard plastic shells in specific areas for enhanced protection.
Measuring for Shoulder Pads
Regardless of if you’re buying your hockey shoulder pads online or in a store, you will need to measure your chest size to ensure you get the right fit.
Figuring out your chest size is easy – all you need is a soft tape measure.
Position the soft tape right below your armpits, and measure the circumference of your chest. You could do this alone, but measuring chest size is a little easier if you have someone to help you.
Shoulder Pad Sizing
There are three categories of hockey shoulder pad sizes: Junior, Youth, and Senior.
Youth Hockey Shoulder Pad Sizing
Staying protected on the ice is especially important for younger players aged 4 – 9. However, finding the best hockey shoulder pad can be considerably more difficult for players that young.
Not to worry, the sizing chart below can help you find the right hockey shoulder pad size for your youngster quickly.
|Youth Hockey Shoulder Pad Sizing Guide|
|Size||Height (inches)||Weight (lbs)||Chest (inches)|
|Small||3’3” – 4’1”||40 – 60||22 – 26|
|Large||3’9” – 4’7”||50 – 7`0||24 – 28|
Junior Hockey Shoulder Pad Sizes
Junior Hockey Shoulder Pads are fit for use by players aged between 8 and 14. However, it’s important to remember that a junior can wear senior hockey shoulder pads if the size lines up perfectly.
If you’re picking out a hockey shoulder pad for a junior, you must remember to check the sizing every season and ensure that the player hasn’t outgrown the shoulder pads.
This sizing guide should help you figure out which size is right for your player:
|Junior Hockey Shoulder Pad Sizing Guide|
|Size||Height (inches)||Weight (lbs)||Chest (inches)|
|Small||4’3” – 4’8”||60 – 90||26 – 30|
|Medium||4’7” – 5’0”||70 – 100||28 – 32|
|Large||4’11” – 5’4”||80 – 110||30 – 34|
Senior Hockey Shoulder Pad Sizing
While the sizing guide below can be a huge help, it’s important to note that some brands have a different sizing system. Checking to see whether their sizing guide is different from the one below and using the most relevant guide of the two is the best way to find the right shoulder pad size for you.
|Senior Hockey Shoulder Pad Sizing Guide|
|Size||Height (inches)||Weight (lbs)||Chest (inches)|
|Small||5’5” – 5’9”||120 – 160||36 – 40|
|Medium||5’7” – 5’11”||140 – 180||38 – 42|
|Large||5’9” – 6’1”||160 – 200||40 – 44|
|Extra-large||5’11” – 6’3”||180 – 220||42+|
Some players like a slightly loose shoulder pad, while others prefer using one that fits snugly. Don’t forget to factor in fit preference when getting your hands on a hockey shoulder pad.
After you first get your hands on your hockey shoulder pad, try it on. You want to make sure that the pad doesn’t move around when you play, and it remains comfortable yet non-restrictive.
If you find out that the size doesn’t fit you quite right, don’t worry. Most manufacturers accept returns and will gladly replace your shoulder pads with the right size.
Level of Protection
The protection that shoulder pads offer can vary widely according to price and brand. If you’re a casual player, learning about the different levels of protection may not help you much.
However, if you’re a professional (or are looking to become one), you must learn about the different levels of protection that shoulder pads offer.
The thickness of the foam in a shoulder pad largely determines how much protection a given shoulder pad offers.
Most recreational-level hockey shoulder pads feature medium-thickness foam, while most professional-level pads come with premium multi-density foams.
The build of the exterior shell also makes a big difference in the protection a shoulder pad offers. Most shoulder pads feature hard plastic shells, but pricier shoulder pads come with carbon fiber shells that are lighter and sturdier.
If you play recreationally, a standard hockey shoulder pad with a one-piece design will suffice. But if you’re looking to get serious, you must get shoulder pads with a two-piece design.
Two-piece shoulder pads feature two sections: two-piece panels and floating sternum guards. These guards are adjustable and allow you to customize the fit.
While a shoulder pad’s liner doesn’t make a big difference in the protection offered, quality liners do not pick up odors and work to keep players comfortable.
In addition to being water-resistant, high-quality liners also tend to be extremely light and cut down on the shoulder pad’s weight, making things more comfortable for the player.
Types of Fit
Perhaps the most important thing to consider when buying a hockey shoulder pad is the type of fit you need. It can often be more critical than the sizing and level of protection offered since the type of fit plays a large role in keeping you comfortable.
The type of fit essentially factors in the shape of your body. Getting your hands on shoulder pads that match your body profile will increase both comfort and mobility.
Furthermore, it will also maximize the effectiveness of the protection a given hockey shoulder pad offers.
There are three fit profiles: traditional, contoured, and tapered. Here’s a brief look at the unique characteristics of the different fits:
If you play in the corners and block shots, getting your hands on a traditional (or “classic”) hockey shoulder pad is the right way to go. The traditional hockey shoulder pads are bulkier than the other types and offer more protection to the player.
If you tend to move around the rink quickly and want a light hockey shoulder pad that does not compromise on protection, getting a countered hockey shoulder pad is an excellent idea.
These boast a streamlined design and fit the body snugly. Of the three types of pads, these are the least bulky, and their anatomical fit ensures maximum mobility.
You can think of the tapered design as a combination of the traditional and contoured designs. Tapered hockey shoulder pads are bulkier on the top and more streamlined on the bottom, giving the player the best of both worlds.
If you play defense or tend to attack aggressively, tapered fit shoulder pads will offer the perfect balance of protection and mobility, allowing you to do your best on the ice.
Hockey Shoulder Pad Reviews
If you don’t mind spending a little extra for quality, you won’t regret getting your hands on the CCM Super Tacks AS1.
The company incorporates the D30 smart material, which is both lightweight and offers excellent protection.
It also has a dual-layer stretch base jacket, which makes for a more comfortable, snug fit. You won’t need to worry about being safe on the ice since the HD foam torso adds to the shoulder pad’s already excellent impact resistance.
Its two-piece floating bicep allows you to customize your fit, and the perforated base coupled with the mesh liner ensures maximum mobility.
All in all, it’s an excellent hockey shoulder pad for elite players that want gear that makes no compromises.
#2. CCM JetSpeed FT1
The JetSpeed FT1 by CCM is slightly less expensive than the Super Tacks AS1. However, it offers protection on par with the AS1.
It boasts both the HD foam and the RocketFrame composite, making for superior ease of movement and enhanced protection.
The Zotefoam used absorbs very little sweat, keeping you dry and comfortable on the ice. It also reduces the weight of the shoulder pads, which counts for a lot in any game.
The bicep and arm protection supplied makes it a favorite among elite players, and the customizable fit is a noteworthy bonus.
But perhaps the best thing about the hockey shoulder pad is the pro-level protection it offers. The JetSpeed FT1 is lightweight, offers just the right fit, supplies excellent protection, and comes in at a reasonable price.
It’s among the best the market has to offer.
#3. Bauer Supreme 2S
If you’re a regular player (play four or more times a week) and are looking for a quality hockey shoulder pad but are on a lower budget, the Bauer Supreme 2S is worth taking a look at.
It’s one of the most impressive options in the lower budget segment. The anatomical build is only the start – it also comes with molded HD foam, making for superior impact resistance.
The low-profile shoulder caps strike the right balance between protection and mobility, and the Thermo Max+ liner wicks away moisture, keeping you comfortable throughout your sessions.
But perhaps the best thing about the Supreme 2S is the Active Motion Protection technology used. It allows for a greater range of motion while keeping your biceps protected from impact.
#4. CCM Tacks 9080
While the CCM Tacks 9080 is priced similar to the Supreme 2S above, it’s meant for a different player.
The Tacks 9080 pays more heed to the weight than the fit. The D30 smart material used keeps the shoulder pads lightweight while also protecting the player.
The HD foam torso adds to its impact resistance, and the molded PE floating spine adds to the pads’ mobility.
The comfort mesh liner works to keep players dry and comfortable, but what puts the hockey shoulder pad on par with the Supreme 2S is the customizability.
The dual-layer stretch base jacket allows you to customize your fit, and the bicep protection is also adjustable, making for an enhanced fit and arm protection.
The Vapor 1X Lite is among the most popular hockey shoulder pads out there – and for good reason.
The company cut down on its weight by introducing scores of new technologies. Compared to the older models, the Vapor 1X Lite is 25% lighter!
But that’s only the beginning. The company goes out of its way to ensure that the lightweight hockey shoulder pad offers pro-level protection.
The aerolite 2.0 shoulder caps are only one of the several improvements. These offer the right combination of protection, comfort, and mobility, making the pads perfect for elite players and novices alike.
The company incorporates Hyperlite foam throughout the panels, adding to the shoulder pads’ mobility and breathability.
The Velcro strapping on the torso and biceps allow for a custom fit, and all of its features coupled with the reasonable pricing make it one of the best hockey shoulder pads out there.
#6. STX Stallion HPR
If you’re looking for a tough and durable hockey shoulder pad for a lower price, the Stallion HPR by STX may be perfect for you.
It comes with the company’s trademarked Power-Fit technology, which ensures maximum protective coverage in targeted zones.
The company also incorporates its high-impact absorption HexPro foam in the shoulder pads. It not only keeps players safe but also comfortable on the ice.
Another completely different type of foam called the HD2 foam is incorporated throughout the pad, which works to cushion impacts and also repels sweat.
The lower price, an excellent range of features, and the removable belly guard makes the STX Stallion HPR one of the best budget hockey shoulder pads available.
If you’re a hockey beginner, investing on the scale of hundreds of dollars on elite-level protection does not make sense.
The Bauer Vapor X900 Lite is affordable and offers just the right amount of protection and comfort that a new player needs.
The company’s Hyperlite foam fortifies the tapered fit, and the low-profile design of the shoulder caps make for complete freedom of movement.
The impressive floating spine construction separates the HD foam from the softer perforated foam, allowing the shoulder pads to strike the right balance between protection and comfort.
If you’re on a tight budget, you cannot go wrong with the Bauer Vapor X900 Lite.
You are now acquainted with some of the market’s best hockey shoulder pads. You also know what you should be looking for in a shoulder pad.
But all things considered, the CCM Super Tacks AS1 is by far the best hockey shoulder pad money can buy. The D30 smart material keeps you safe and comfortable, and the HD foam torso works to protect you from heavy hits.
Furthermore, the two-piece design, coupled with the perforated base, leaves you nothing to worry about in terms of mobility.
We can recommend the Super Tacks AS1 to any player without any reservations – it’s worth every penny you pay for it.