Ice hockey helmets are obviously a vital part of player safety in a sport with flying pucks, swinging sticks and body checks, but simply wearing a helmet on the ice won’t give you the best protection. Hockey helmets must be the right size and fit in order to properly protect the wearer.
In this post we’ll take a look at how to fit a hockey helmet and exactly what it takes to get the best safety possible when shopping for the best hockey helmet.
Hockey Helmet Sizing
Like all other protective gear, hockey helmets come in numerous sizes, so it’s important to know what size you should wear before you begin to assess how your helmet will fit.
All currently manufactured hockey helmets come in sizes based on a range of head circumference, so your head circumference is required to select the appropriate size. In order to do this you’ll need a ribbon measuring tape. Starting at the center of your forehead, about an inch or two above your eyebrows, wrap the tape around your head making sure to keep it in a straight line at 180 degrees. If you measure your head diagonally it could be inaccurate as far as hockey helmet sizing is concerned. We should also point out, that most hockey helmet producers are based out of Canada or Europe, so having a measurement in centimeters will make it easier to find the correct size.
Once you have measured your head, you can now find a hockey helmet size with a circumference range that includes your measurements. Keep in mind that while most hockey helmet brands come close to using the same ranges for their sizing, they’re may be a slight discrepancy in one direction or the other. With that in mind, general size ranges include:
- X-Small: 48 to 53cm
- Small: 50 to 56cm
- Medium: 54 to 60cm
- Large: 57 to 63cm
You’ll notice that there is an overlap between every size. This gives you the ability to adjust the helmet to perfectly fit your head, give you different options for comfort and give room for growth for youth players.
How Hockey Helmets Can Be Adjusted
Once you’ve found the appropriately sized hockey helmet, you’ll find that it doesn’t seem to fit quite right directly out of the box. As we’ve mentioned before, this is because hockey helmets are designed to fit a circumference range rather than an exact head size. Each hockey helmet brand has a different adjustment mechanism for creating the perfect fit, so you’ll want to take a close look at the instructions for how the system on your helmet works. Most hockey helmets are adjusted by:
- Tool-free locking mechanisms
- Screw tightening/loosening system
Technology has improved over the years allowing hockey helmet manufacturers to design helmets that can be adjusted without tools. These styles commonly include helmets with side locking clips or a hatch in the back that contains a strap to loosen or tighten. Helmets with locking clips are the easiest to use, especially when adjusting on the fly or by yourself. There’s usually one on each side of the head that can easily open to extend or constrict the helmet. This system is the easiest to use, but could require readjustment from time to time.
Some helmets require a tool, usually a screw driver, to adjust. In order to fit your helmet you’ll either have to remove or loosen the screws on a section of the helmet, adjust and then re-secure the screws. In order to get a perfect fit, you’ll probably have to repeat this process a few times.
How to Properly Fit a Hockey Helmet
In order to be optimally safe, a hockey helmet must fit properly. It should be snug, but not so tight that it’s painful to wear. If your hockey helmet becomes painful to wear, you may want to reassess the appropriate fit and size. If it’s the correct size and fit, you may need to try a different style.
Adjusting the fit of your helmet can be done in four easy steps:
- Extend the helmet to the largest size
- Put the helmet on and constrict until snug
- Tighten the chin strap
- Fasten the cage or visor
- Test fit and repeat if necessary
Once the helmet is expanded as far open as it can possibly go, you’ll want to center it on your head and close it until it feels snug. You should be able to achieve this without forcing it to tighten around your temple. Simply tighten until it feels secure but not too tight and then relock the mechanism to prevent it from loosening during the rest of the process. In order to get the best fitting results, it may be advantageous to get assistance from a teammate.
Once the helmet is tightened and locked, adjust the chin strap so that it’s secure below your chin. Even though you’ll see NHL players wear their chin strap incredibly loose, you’ll want to make sure it fits just under your chin so that you can only slide one finger or less between the strap and your skin. The chin strap has little to do with the snugness of your helmet, but it’ll prevent you from losing it if it’s pulled or hit in a way that will force it up and off of your person.
Finally, snap your visor or cage in place with the chin rest in the appropriate position on your chin.
After you’ve fitted your helmet, nod your head up and down and side to side. You’ll want it to remain firmly in place with little movement, if any at all. If it’s still too loose or hurts your head, repeat the process again until you have a perfect fit.
Hockey Helmets and Visors
Almost all hockey players besides professionals wear a cage or visor with their helmet. Wearing a facemask protects your face from shot pucks and errant sticks. The type of facemask you choose can sometime affect how your helmet fits. The three most common face protectors are:
- Visor or shield
- Wire cage
- Plastic visor/cage hybrid
A visor or face shield is comprised of hard plastic and is attached to the helmet and protects most of the face. A properly attached visor will rarely alter the fit of your helmet, but you should take precautions to reevaluate after adding one to your helmet.
A wire cage or a plastic visor and cage hybrid will have to be fitted properly to stay secure. These two protective add-ons extend further than a visor to cover the entire face and wrap under the chin for maximum protection. How these are attached will affect the fit of your helmet.
Your cage should fit snugly when attached and not wobble if you move your head. All helmets should have two “J” hooks at the temple area where you can slide the metal or plastic wires of the side of the cage. If you have to bend or force the cage into the “J” hooks, the cage you are using may not be compatible with your helmet.
While the “J” hooks will prevent your cage from wobbling side to side, they won’t keep it firmly in place. This is the job of the chin support and straps.
In order to properly fit your cage, close the cage with the chin support pressing firmly to the center of your chin. You’ll notice a strap on both sides of the support with snaps on the end. If you look at the side of your helmet, you’ll notice corresponding snaps somewhere behind the ear. Adjust these straps so that they can snap tightly to the helmet with the chin support in the proper position. The cage should now be secured so it does not move when you shake your head.
One final note when fitting a hockey cage or visor to a helmet. Most face shields are designed to fit the same brand of helmets. For example CCM cages fit best with CCM helmets and Warrior visors fit best with Warrior helmets. While some styles may be interchangeable, they might not fit exactly as intended.
It very important to reiterate that hockey helmets must be the appropriate size and fit snuggly for the best protection. An ill-fitted helmet can increase your risk of concussion or other injury should it come loose in the course of play. It can also be a nuisance that hinders your experience if it wobbles on your head or is so small that it gives you headaches.