Most hockey players know that most expensive hockey gear is better than comparable inexpensive gear. It’s hard to say definitively that all expensive skates, sticks, helmets, pads and goalie gear are better than the lower-priced stuff, without doing a product-to-product comparison, but if you want a broad, generalized answer, then Yes: Hockey gear manufacturers invest the most research and development, and the newest, toughest, lightest-weight materials—and a lot of other design improvements—into their top-quality products, and all of that investment makes the gear more expensive. But while players and parents alike may ask this broad question often, they’re usually asking something more specific without knowing it.
Is More Expensive Gear Worth It for Me?
So you’ve been browsing gear and looking at high-end skates and sticks thinking, “I bet those skates are so lightweight they feel like there’s nothing on your feet,” or, “the new flex technology in this stick is going to add some serious acceleration and speed to my shot.” You’re probably right, to some degree. But before you make a big investment in gear, consider whether you’ll enjoy the full benefits of all the components that make high-end gear “better.” Some questions to ask yourself might include:
1. How often do I play?
This is an important one and will probably play the biggest role in whether expensive hockey gear is worth it to you, or whether you’ll even notice a significant difference in incrementally more expensive gear. Are you on the ice five days a week, 50 weeks a year, or are you playing only one or two days a week for twelve weeks a year? If it’s closer to the latter example, mid-range skates, sticks, and helmets might be right for you. If your skate sharpener knows more about you than your parents do, or if you’re sharpening at home regularly, you’re probably playing enough to appreciate the improvements that expensive gear provides.
2. What’s my budget?
While this may be the one and only question for many, we put this second on the list because some players may devote all of their discretionary spending to hockey and hockey only. In which case, how often you play is the most important, and an investment in higher-end gear will be absolutely worth it. But, budgets are a reality for most, if not all, hockey players. If expensive gear is within your budget, go for it and enjoy. If it’s not, don’t worry—you can get less expensive gear and still outplay many who use top-of-the-line gear.
3. Will less expensive gear hinder my performance?
This is a tough one to answer truthfully, but do your best. No one likes to admit their skill level won’t be significantly improved by more expensive gear. But maybe you’re at a level of play where you will see better results from an investment in drills or fitness, or just overall time on the ice, versus a whole new kit.
Do I Need Expensive Skates, Sticks, Helmets, Etc.?
Some hockey players may truly need more expensive gear. That could be you. Our best advice is to do your research and compare products while asking the big questions above about how often you play and whether your game would see a major improvement from higher-end gear. For many the answer will be yes, you do need more expensive gear. For others, maybe not.
Why Are Skates Expensive?
Long gone are the years of hard, injection-molded hockey skates that felt like rigid boxes on your feet. Skate technology has vastly improved over the past 15 or so years, and today’s skates are made with composite materials, comfort-engineered liners, and better steels and steel-replacement systems for quicker change-outs and sharpening. With makers like Bauer and CCM in what seems like a “space race” to create the strongest, lightest weight skates, with the best flex and stride to make you faster and more agile, each year we’re seeing something new and better in skate technology.
New Skate Technology from Bauer
- The Bauer Vapor 2X Pro
- Lock Fit Pro liner which keeps you dry and comfortable
- Reflex Pro tongue for better forward flex and customized comfort
- Thermoformable Speed Plate 2.0 for a custom fit
- A carbon composite outsole for more power
New Skate Technology from CCM
- The Jetspeed FT2 Skate
- Liteframe 360 Evo one-piece boot
- Speedblade XS1 Black runner for improved striding
- CCM OrthoMove footbed for customized support
- TotalDri Pro+ liner for moisture-wicking comfort
Why Are Sticks Expensive?
Similarly, stick technology has been improving at lightning speed over the past few decades, ever since the introduction and widespread adoption of composite sticks. While wood sticks still hold a sentimental place in the hearts of many players (and exist at the core of the history of the sport), it’s undeniable that composite sticks bring improvement to the game in almost every aspect. And with continued improvements in composite materials for better kick points, flexes, and blade patterns, the price tag on many top-of-the-line sticks also climbs.
New Stick Technology from Bauer
- The Bauer Vapor Flylite Stick
- Sling Blade technology for an unmatched shooting experience that allows for the puck to pop off the blade
- ER Spine for improved energy transfer
- Advanced Carbon Layering (ACL) for a thinner, stronger, and lighter shaft
New Stick Technology from CCM
- The Ribcor Trigger 4 Pro Grip Composite Stick
- X-Flow shaft technology for improved consistency
- Agility Blade for increased accuracy
- Sigmatex material for high-end structural strength
New Stick Technology from Warrior
- The Alpha DX Composite Stick
- Sabre Taper combines low kick response with a stable, powerful release
- Phantom 1 construction is lightweight and balanced, delivering more control and response
- Minimus Carbon 14 is lighter, tougher, and more dynamic
With a little exploration of what goes into gear construction, it’s understandable why hockey equipment can be expensive, but also why there is such a wide range of affordably priced gear. As new technologies become old tech, they don’t become worse—they’re simply cheaper to make and thus cheaper to buy.
Soon, new and better tech will improve skate, stick, and protective gear performance and there will be a whole new wave of higher-end gear. But with the race to make better gear and the price tag that comes along with it, there is something great to be said about a sport where no matter how much gear improves (and increases in price) you can still buy a regulation puck for $2 or less.