Breaking in Pads
Breaking in pads has become less painful. Today's pads are made up of micro fiber polyurethane leather, nylon of different strengths, high density foam, polyurethane foam, and polyethylene foam all arranged in layers, glued together, stitched and have predetermined break points. It is critical to know how many break points your pads have so that you avoid actually breaking the pads. We want to break in the pads. Generally the best way to break in new pads is to wear them. Please be sure to take your time and do not force your pads to do something they are not design to do when using some or all of our following suggestions. From this point on we can recommend the following methods of breaking in each of the different types of pads.
Stiff pads are classified as having no break points internally along the face of the pad except where the boot meets the shin. With pads designed like this there will be very little flexibility along the entire length. What we suggest for a pad designed to be stiff is to do as little flexing and shaping as possible. You want to maintain the characteristics a stiff pad provides. With use you will become comfortable in a stiff pad and benefit from their attributes. Please be aware that stiff pads favor goaltenders that want maximum blocking area, a far from the body and tight five hole closure, have great flexibility, or outstanding skating ability.
Medium pads are broken into two different types. There is medium high where there is an internal break point at the top of the knee and there is medium low where there is an internal break point at the bottom of the knee.
For medium high pads we have a couple recommendations. The first would be to flex the top or thigh portion of the pads from straight to completely bent making the pads look like the number one from the side view. Then ease off the pressure you have applied to the top or thigh portion of the pads and let it go back to its original position. Repeat this method as needed. Another method that works is to turn the pads upside down while holding the boot portion of the pads and press down on the pads. You will notice that the top or thigh portion of the pads will bend again producing the look of an upside down number one from a side perspective. Repeat this method as needed. Overnight or while you are not around an easy way to break in your pads is to stand them upside down leaning against a wall letting gravity and the weight above the break do the work. You will begin to notice the top or thigh portion of the pad needs less effort to bend as the materials have loosened from their original position. Please be careful how much force or pressure you put on the pads. Take your time and do not force the pads to do something they are not ready or designed for. If you put too much force or pressure on the pads you will start to crack, separate, and stress the knee and shin portion of the pads. This will decrease the life span of the pad and its effectiveness. Medium high flex pads will benefit goaltenders that want maximum blocking area, a close to the body and tight five hole closure, lower flexibility, or goaltenders looking for a pad to follow their thigh while skating in upright stances.
For medium low pads we recommend a few different techniques to break in your pads. The first would be to hold the pads just above the middle of the knee area. Then from the straight or original position bend down until the knee and thigh portion of the pads are parallel to the floor. Then ease off your pressure and allow the pads to rebound to their original position. Repeat as needed. You can also turn the pads upside down by holding the boot portion of the pads and applying pressure downward until the knee and thigh portion are flat on the ground. Then take pressure off the pads and let them return to their original position. Repeat this method as needed. Overnight or while you are not around another way to break in your pads is to find an object that is heavy and sturdy enough that will allow you to stick your pads under. Make sure not to have the thigh and knee portion of the pads bend past being parallel to the floor. If an object is not available you can accomplish a similar effect by standing the pads upside down against a wall and letting gravity and the weight above the knee and thigh portion to do the work. Please be careful how much force or pressure you put on the pads. Take your time and do not force the pads to do something they are not ready for. If you put too much force or pressure on the pads you will start to crack, separate, and stress the knee and shin portion of the pads. This will diminish the life span of the pad and its effectiveness. After a little time you will start to see your pads take on a “zed” or “zee” shape. Medium low flex pads will benefit goaltenders that want maximum frontal blocking area, a mid position to the body and tight five hole closure, average to great flexibility, or goaltenders looking for a pad to follow their thigh while skating in deep stances.
Flexible pads are classified as having internal break points at the bottom of the knee and the top of the knee in addition to the internal break point at the boot and shin. We have a few ways to break in a flexible pad and they are as follows. First would be to hold the pads at the top or thigh portion of the pads. Then from the straight or original position bend down until the knee and thigh portion of the pads bend down and back towards the shin portion of the pads. Then ease off your pressure and allow the pads to rebound to their original position. Repeat as needed. You can also turn the pads upside down by holding the boot portion of the pads and applying pressure downward until the knee and thigh portion bend up and back towards the shin portion of the pads. Then take pressure off the pads and let them return to their original position. Repeat this method as needed. Overnight or while you are not around another way to break in your pads is to find an object that is heavy and sturdy enough that will allow you to stick your pads under. If an object is not available you can accomplish a similar effect by standing the pads upside down against a wall letting gravity and the weight above the knee and thigh portion to do the work. Please be careful how much force or pressure you put on the pads. Take your time and do not force the pads to do something they are not ready for. If you put too much force or pressure on the pads you will start to crack, separate, and stress the thigh, knee and shin portion of the pads. This will diminish the life span of the pad and its effectiveness. Flexible pads will benefit goaltenders that want maximum frontal blocking area, a tight to the body and tight five hole closure, low to average flexibility, or goaltenders looking for a pad to follow their entire leg while skating.
It is very important to take care of your pads. They are usually the most expensive piece of gear that you will purchase and with that should be cared for regularly. Before going any further we highly recommend that you put together a pad care kit. This kit should include toe buckle leather straps or toe ties depending on what your pads have, a couple extra leather or nylon straps as well as buckles or quick release clips, and finally an extra set of hardware for the toe setup and strap setup on the pad. Generally most manufacturers make these replacement parts for your pads available to you. If for some reason you are unable to get the exact parts for your pads, generic pieces can work or be modified to suit your needs in times of desperation or isolation.
The most common problem with today's pads is the toe hardware. This area takes a lot of abuse through playing. Skating, movements inside the crease, constant up and down movements pound the screws and pronged t-posts into submission. Every goaltender has at one point lost a piece of toe hardware. There is however an easy solution to prevent this from happening. We recommend that you check the hardware at the toe regularly. In addition to regular checks the best way to prevent this from happening is to apply a small dab of LOCTITE THREADLOCKER BLUE to the screws and then tighten them flush to the opening on the bottom portion or area of the pronged t-post. This will prevent vibrations from knocking the screws loose, as well as prevent rusting in the thread area which is a common problem. This application is not permanent so you can still change hardware if need be. This method can also be used for the straps on pads that utilize adjustable positions.
Because pads are no longer made with leather and use synthetics it is important to know that it is not needed or recommended by us or the manufacturers to use any type of water repelling or slide enhancing substance on any part of the pads. The effects of using any type of agent to repel water or decrease friction may discolour or eat away at the synthetic materials. It will also void any warranty written or implied by the pad manufacturers.
We believe it is necessary to go above and beyond when going to or from the arena. We recommend that all pads be carried in a pad bag or in your equipment bag. Using one of these two methods will protect your pads from the elements, avoid abrasions and cuts while taking the pads to the car, out of the car, to the arena, and from the arena. This will prolong the life of your pads as well as keep them safe from avoidable damage.
Breaking in Blockers
Blockers are the easiest piece of goaltender gear to break in. All you can really do is wear it and take the time to learn how the puck comes off the blocking board. Other than that it will be a matter of adjusting the wrist strap on the blocker palm to suit your needs. It has been recommended in the past that you can use certain oil, conditioner, wax, and spray to soften, maintain, and prolong the life of the blocker palm. We do not recommend these tactics at all. Blocker palms used today are made from synthetic materials. Just like with pads we do not recommend use of any of these products and the use of these will void any warranty written or implied by the manufacturers.
Breaking in Gloves
Breaking in a glove is going to take some time, patience, and repetition. Most manufacturers are taking extra steps to provide a good off the shelf feel on gloves made today. We have a few recommendations on how to accelerate the break in process without sacrificing protection or life span of the glove. First we recommend that the glove be put in a skate oven. This should be done at the store or asked to be done when ordering a new glove. First you undo all the straps and open the glove right up. Place the glove in the preheated skate oven for about 5 minutes. Remove the glove, place it on your hand and do it up to suit your needs. From there all you do is open and close the glove and mold it to your desired shape. This will allow the glove materials to loosen from their original state. If you don't have access to a skate oven you can use a hair dryer. Please be very careful not to over heat the glove. Keep the hair dryer moving over the entire surface of the palm to ensure even heat distribution and reduce the risk of overheating the glove. This will provide a similar result as a skate oven. Another good way to break in a glove is to use both hands holding the thumb and palm of the glove. From there all you want to do is open the glove as wide as the glove will let you and then closing it as tight as the glove will let you. This will result in a wide catching surface and a tight closure through loosening the materials from their original state. When you are not around we suggest that you tie the glove up in the closed position. This will enable a tight seal with the glove when closed. There is no need to put anything in the pocket. We are catching a small disc in a pre made pocket not a baseball in a solid flat area.
Chest and Arms
Breaking in Chest and Arms
Chest and arms are one of the hardest pieces of gear to break in. Chest and arms are also the hardest piece of gear to get use to. Just like breaking in gloves a chest and arms will take some time and patience. The best way to get use to a chest and arm is to wear it when you play. This will allow you to get comfortable with the chest and arms as well as learn how the chest and arms plays. For faster break in we recommend a couple of methods. The first that we would recommend is to put your chest and arms in a sauna. This will allow the materials to loosen without reducing protection. If you don't have access to a sauna the next best thing is to put the chest and arms in the bathroom while you or anyone else is taking a shower. Please remember to keep the bathroom fan turned off so that the steam from the shower will remain in the room and soften the materials in the chest and arms. Another method that works well is to wear your chest and arms and move about. This will get you use to the chest and arm as well as loosen up the materials. The arms in a chest and arms need a little more attention. We recommend that you flex the arms at the elbow to increase the range of movement. This can be done while wearing the chest and arms or with both hands moving the arms at the elbow joint.
Breaking in Pants
Pants are also difficult to get use to. Just like breaking in gloves and chest and arms, pants will take some time and patience. The best way to get use to pants is to wear them when you play. This will allow you to get comfortable with the pants as well as learn how the pants play. We recommend a couple different methods to breaking in pants. The first that we would recommend is to put your pants in a sauna. This will allow the materials to loosen without reducing protection. If you don't have access to a sauna the next best thing is to put the pants in the bathroom while you or anyone else is taking a shower. Please remember to keep the bathroom fan turned off so that the steam from the shower will remain in the room and soften the materials in the pants. Another method that works well is to wear your pants and move about at home. This will get you use to the pants as well as loosen up the materials.
It is very important to take very good care of your mask. Masks protect the most important part of the body. With the discovery and better understanding of head trauma and concussions we have some recommendations that will prolong the life of your mask and most importantly make sure you are safely protected.
Before we start please be aware that if your mask has or you suspect it is cracked or damaged discontinue use at once! It is not worth the risk to your health or safety.
It is highly recommended that if your mask cage has a dent or rusting at the welds it is time to replace the cage. If your mask cage hardware (screws, t posts, or cage clips) are rusting this is also a good sign for replacing your hardware.
Every now and then we advise you tighten all the hardware on your mask. This means screws around the cage, and screws for dome snaps. It is also a very good idea to carry a proper screw driver in your equipment bag so you can check all the hardware anytime and anywhere.
Most masks come with a carry bag. Always put your mask in the carry bag when placing your mask into your equipment bag. They are designed to protect the finish of the mask when being transported in your equipment bag to and from your vehicle and to and from the arena or home. If your mask does not have a carry bag we strongly advise investing in one. If your equipment bag has a pocket large enough to separate your gear from your mask it is also advised to put your mask in the carry bag and then into the separate pocket of your equipment bag.
Sweat bands are standard on all masks made today. It is a great idea to carry extra sweat bands in your equipment bag because they can easily be forgotten or misplaced. Sweat bands should be replaced annually at the very least. Even when washed they lose their effectiveness and are the major cause of skin conditions from masks.
It is also a great idea to carry an extra hardware kit that contains screws, t posts, and cage clips. There will be a time where some of the hardware has worked its way loose or has been knocked loose while playing. Having this extra hardware will come in handy so you can ensure proper protection. Dome snaps are made of plastic and keep the mask strapping or harness secure to the mask itself and the back plate. Because of the nature of the position these dome snaps are prone to breakage. Having extra dome snaps will make fixing broken snaps quick, maintain proper fit and most of all protection. Chin cups should also be included in your bag of extra pieces for your mask. The chin cup should be replaced often as they are difficult to clean and collect bacteria. Please replace annually at the least to avoid skin conditions and improve fit, feel, and protection.
Breaking in Skates
Skates are a must have in order to play the great game of hockey. That is why you need to pay extra special attention to this area of your gear. Besides being properly fit for skates which is so critical for performance, comfort, and health, properly breaking in your skates will ensure that you maximize your performance, comfort, health and most of all life span. Here are some important facts to know about your feet before we continue any further. Although your feet do stop growing at a young age this does not mean you will always be in the same size skate. As we get older our feet change shape. They flatten out, become thicker and not as strong. It is important that you have your skates properly fit so that you can maximize your effectiveness on the ice. If your current skates don't feel right, it is time to be professionally fit again to match the changes in your feet.
With today's skates and the technology being used all skates can be heat fit to decrease the amount of time it takes to break in new skates. There are some things to know before this is done. First and foremost do not try to heat fit your skates at home. This is not the right oven to use and you will ruin your skates voiding any warranty from the manufacturer and having brand new skates that will not help you perform, be comfortable, keep you healthy, and most of all last. For a proper heat fit visit The Goalie Crease location to be professional fit, heat fit, and then sharpened. This is the best possible situation for you and your skates. If you are not in the local area take your skates to a Hockey Store that has access to the proper skate oven and someone to make sure the process is done properly. This is a service that you will likely be charged for but it is well worth it to make sure someone gives you the guidance needed.
The heat fit system is very simple. After you have been professionally fit for the skate that meets your requirements, the type of footwear you use and foot type you have the skates are put into a preheated skate oven. They are set in there for 5 minutes. The skates are then pulled out of the oven and will be warm. Put on the skates with the same footwear you would wear on the ice. Slide both of your feet into their respective skates so that you can trap as much heat as possible. Please make sure to tap your heel into the back of the boot or heel counter as this is the most critical area for a secure and proper overall fit. From here you want to lace up the skates snug. At the top two eyelets make sure that they are no tighter than the width of the lace line or pattern created in the lower middle portion of the boot. The reason for this is we want to make sure that the eyelets in the skate materials do not loosen and pull through. This is very important for the life of your skate as well as a properly secured fit for performance, comfort, and health of your feet. Once both skates are on, stay seated for 10 to 15 minutes. Please make sure that your legs are at a 90 degree angle with feet flat on the ground. This allows the boot to wrap around your foot decreasing any voids in the boot. After the skates have cooled enough get up and walk around. This will allow the boots to spread a little further out making room for your feet in a full weight bearing position. You don't want to get up too soon and walk around. If you do, you will ruin the foot bed construction and instep portion of the skates again decreasing the level of performance, comfort, health of your feet and most of all life span. Please note that we do not endorse heat fit usage that exceeds two separate treatments. One heat fit should be enough. Furthermore a heat fit skate does dramatically reduce the time it takes to break in a new pair of skates it also decreases the life span of the skates. Now this decrease in life span is minimal but it is there. If you desire a stiffer skate boot like many of the best goaltenders in the world please read on to find out some other ways to break in new skates.
A great way to preserve the stiff feel of a skate that so many high level goaltenders demand is simply by taking your new skates, putting them on, tapping your heel into the back portion or heel counter of the skate and tie them up as if you were headed out of the dressing room to practice or play a game all in the comfort of your own home. Please make sure that you are doing this in a carpeted area of your home and please make sure you are wearing some sort of skate blade guards to eliminate any damage to the flooring in your home. This way you will naturally soften and mold the interior of the boot without decreasing the overall rigidity and structure on the outer and supporting areas of the skates. This method does take a little longer to get the boot to mold around the unique curvature of your feet but will produce the longest life span possible maintaining the stiff, supportive, performance driven attributes high end goaltenders need.
If you do want to expedite the break in process for skates in the privacy of your own home you can use the above method but add a little heat to areas you feel are giving you “hot spots” on your feet. Some common “hot spots” are the inside and outside ankle, heel, pinky toe knuckle and big toe knuckle. Just like with breaking in a new glove you can use a typical hair dryer to soften the interior of the skate allowing more relief in areas giving you some discomfort. For this method you want to keep the heat moving over the intended area so that it will loosen slowly and not over heat which could cause damage to the lining, foams, and supportive structure of the skates. After you have heated this area proceed to put your feet into the skates, tap your heels to the back portion or heel counter of the skate, and tie them up as if you were headed out of the dressing room to practice or play a game all in the comfort of your own home. Because we have added heat to certain areas of the skate please let the skates cool before you decide to move around. Again keep your feet flat on the floor and your legs at a 90 degree angle. It will only take 5 minutes for your skates to cool down.
There is one last method that we recommend for breaking in new skates in the privacy of your own home. Similar to using a Sauna to break in chest and arms, pants and gloves you can also use them to break in skates. This will allow the materials to loosen without reducing performance, comfort or health of your feet. If you don't have access to a sauna the next best thing is to put your skates in the bathroom while you or anyone else is taking a shower. Please remember to keep the bathroom fan turned off so that the steam from the shower will remain in the room and soften the materials in the skates. These two methods will help break in your skates in a low risk way maintaining performance, comfort, and health and long life span in a way where very little can go wrong.
It is very important to take extra steps when making sure your skates are being taken care of. Because skates are one of the most critical pieces of gear you have to use they should be treated accordingly.
First and foremost we highly recommend that you make an investment in a pair of skate guards. These skate guards will help prevent blade damage while being transported in your equipment bag as well as walking around off the ice surface. Skate guards will also eliminate damage to other pieces of gear.
Laces are a very important feature to a skate. They become frayed and lose their ability to properly lock your feet in the skate at a very fast rate. Depending on the frequency you play it is important to change your laces accordingly. Some things to look for are your laces appear to be tightly stretched and thin. Along with this you will see that the fiber strands fray and look like a cylinder instead of flat across the top of the foot. This is very critical to notice. A major reason for lace bite is from the laces aging and getting a cylinder shape. Please be aware that this cylinder affect may be fixed by re-lacing the boot. Make sure the laces lay flat across the top of the foot and check for any areas that look damaged. They should be replaced if they are frayed and stretched very tightly.
The insole of a skate is a feature that you want to pay a lot of attention to. We highly recommend that you remove your insole from inside the skates to let them dry freely as well as the skate to dry faster. This will also allow you to inspect your insole for any excessive wear. Insoles should be replaced often as they are a critical feature for support.
Skate sharpening is a very personal issue you must address. There are a lot of factors that you must consider when deciding what sharpness level best suits your needs and wants. What we recommend is ask for some advice or experiment. In today's game of goaltending we have noticed a trend where the average goalie is going deeper or sharper with their hollow. This is because of the aggressive movements that are being incorporated in modern goaltending. We find that 5/8” is a good all around sharpening. The sharpest we recommend is 3/8” and the dullest is 3/4".
We highly recommend a thin Lycra moisture wicking sock. There are many advantages to these socks. They reduce weight of the skates over a long period of time. They keep feet from slipping in the boot reducing the risk of blisters. By washing the socks it will kill bacteria helping to prevent athlete's foot or any other infection. You are able to fit the skate tighter to the foot therefore giving you more of a true fit to increase performance, comfort and overall health of your feet.
Stick sizing really depends on personal preference as well as your positional attributes. The best way to find a stick that meets your specific and personal requirements is to experiment. What we strongly recommend is a stick that allows you good flex in the legs, maintains a high chest, and a straight blocker arm. This basic stance will allow you to maintain a large profile, great balance, and loaded power in your legs.
The second part of stick sizing is when you are down on the ice you want to make sure that your stick size, or paddle size allows you an upright chest, good stick angle and closes the gap under the blocker arm.
We do not recommend that you cut the shaft portion of your stick. The sticks are made in such a way so that they are balanced as is. If the stick looks too tall for you it is a good indication that the wrong paddle size has been chosen give your personal stature.
Taping your stick is very much personal preference. We recommend going from toe to heel. This allows you to maneuver the tape around the very thick heel portion with ease. We also highly recommend taping your stick often. This is very important as the tape gets saturated with water and ice which causes pooling or saturation of the blade. This weakens the blade, particularly the heel portion effectively decreasing the rigidity and life span of the stick. For blade tape you can choose whatever colour you would like.
When it comes to knobs, most goaltenders like a bigger knob on the end of their stick. This helps keep it from getting stuck in the net also making it easier to pick up your stick if you drop it or preventing it from sliding out of your hand when executing a poke check. If you are a goaltender who is proficient at playing the puck a smaller knob will benefit your comfort and abilities. We highly recommend only using white tape for the knob of your stick. Because the coloured tapes contain high amounts of dye they are more likely to eat away at your blocker palm reducing the life and adding to an equipment repair bill that could be prevented.
Drying and Cleaning Equipment
It is extremely important to take the steps necessary to properly dry your gear. Beyond the fact that your gear does cost a lot of money it is very important to dry your gear from a health perspective.
First and foremost it is very important to take all of your gear out of your equipment bag when you return home from playing hockey. Secondly, we highly recommend that your gear is stored, dried, and left outside of your equipment bag until you pack up to play again in an area of your home. The major reason for this is very simple. Your home is climate controlled. This allows optimal conditions to properly dry your gear and prevent mold, bacteria, and accelerated breakdown of your gear. Storing your gear in a shed, garage, or car can cause some serious conditions that will affect your health. Because these areas are not climate controlled they are prone to fluctuating temperatures in humid and cold climates that can result in gear that never dries, has ice formations, causes mold, major bacteria growth and decreases the life span and protective level of your gear.
It is important that you find an area in your home that is out of the way, in a low traffic area and most of all has good air flow and ventilation. This will allow your gear the best chance to dry fully before you play again. Secondly, you want to make sure your gear is suspended and off the ground. An equipment drying rack is a great way to achieve this. This allows circulation of the air in and around your gear.
Starting with your mask you want to take it right out of its protective carry bag. Also remove your sweatband. Your chest and arm should be hung in a fashion where the arms are straight out to the side to produce an open area for air circulation. The pants should have the belt and crotch unlaced to open the pant up as much as possible. Your blocker should have the wrist strap un-done, internal hand pad (if the blocker is designed this way) flipped outside the synthetic palm and hung upside down so the moisture runs down and out of the palm of the blocker. Your glove should also be opened fully, straps loosened and have the palm pad taken out or flipped outside of the internal hand of the glove. Again the glove should be hung with the pocket pointing to the ceiling to allow the moisture to run out of the glove. Your pads should also be hung upside down. This is very important as they get very wet from playing. Having them upside down the boot of the pads dries properly, moisture is not trapped in the boot area reducing the risk of rusting the toe hardware. This also increases air flow to the wettest part of the pad. Lastly your skates should have the insole taken right out of the skate to fully dry and make sure no moisture is trapped in the skate under the insole. Also you want to unlace the top 2 or 3 eyelets to make sure the skate is opened up enough. This is very important as skates usually take the longest to dry. Anything we can do to speed up the process can't hurt. You also want to have the blade of your skates pointing to the ceiling. This will aid in having the moisture run out of the boot and also to decrease the chance of rust on the blade and rivets.
We do not recommend the use of any products that are used to mask odor from your gear. These products come in the form of sprays, pastes, and absorbing type materials. This is a quick fix solution that may react with the materials in your gear and reduce the life span and protection of your gear. Beyond that they will not effectively kill mold or bacteria.
We highly recommend that twice a year you have your gear professionally cleaned. There are some great systems that are now available at your local Hockey store for gear cleaning. These systems are designed to kill bacteria and mold which will help increase the life span of your gear and most of all keep you healthy.