What’s the most important tool in hockey? Your brain! So that would make your helmet the most important piece of equipment. Long gone are the days of the helmet as an optional piece of equipment —Craig MacTavish was the last NHL player to play without one in the 96-97 season. And it’s for good reason players at all levels not only feel obligated (or are required) to wear a helmet (and face protection), but know just how important it is to wear one.
Today, hockey equipment makers focus on two primary aspects of helmet design:
- Fit and comfort – striving to make a helmet that feels like you’re not wearing one
- Protection – continuously improving materials and design to maximize all forms of impact protection
A single hard shell with thick foam padding simply won’t do anymore. Engineers have realized that traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) can come from small impacts as easily as they can from major ones, and that helmets need different materials and coverage areas to protect against different forces, like a puck traveling at 100 miles per hour, versus a head-first slide into the boards. That’s where new helmet technologies like Bauer’s Suspend-Tech Next Gen (NG), Warrior’s Omnishock Protection System, and CCM’s I.Q.Shion come into play. Working with their own in-house engineers, and outside scientists, these helmet designers continue to refine helmets to make them more protective and less cumbersome.
Hockey Helmet Labels and Certifications
You may notice a few different abbreviations on your helmet and other protective equipment. They indicate that the specific model of equipment has passed rigorous safety standards of the certifying body. The most common helmet certifications you’ll see (and should look for) are:
ASTM: Formerly known as “American Society for Testing and Materials” – One of the largest voluntary standards-developing organizations in the world, ASTM develops and evaluates materials, products, systems, and services standards in a variety of industries.
CSA: Canadian Standards Association – A global organization that provides engineering standards to all sorts of industries, including industrial, medical, and, of course, hockey equipment. In Canada, this would be the standard certification you’d look for on all hockey equipment.
HECC: Hockey Equipment Certification Council – A non-profit which evaluates and creates “testing procedures for hockey equipment for the purpose of product certification.” This is the standard US certification for hockey equipment.
CE: Conformitè Europëenne – The European Union’s standards certification for products and materials.
Most hockey helmets will be labeled as CSA, HECC and CE certified, but if you look into the materials that make up your helmet, you’ll often find those are ASTM certified as well. Chances are, any name brand helmet you buy will have all of these labels (and all of the technologies mentioned here are certified), but it’s always a good idea to look before you buy.
Bauer Suspend-Tech Next Gen
Bauer describes their Suspend-Tech NG technology as a “multi-density, free-floating liner system for protection from all impacts in the game.” Foams are arguably the most important material in helmet design. To be effective, they must absorb both major impacts (traditionally with a crushable foam) and repeated smaller impacts. Bauer uses XRD® Foam as an integral part of their Suspend-Tech NG design. It’s lightweight, thin, and breathable, and absorbs up to 90% of energy when impacted at high strain rates (according to the ASTM.)
Bauer Hockey Helmets With Suspend-Tech 2
These hockey helmets featuring Suspend-Tech NG are CSA, HECC, and CE certified.
Warrior Omnishock Protection System
Warrior applies an entire system of foam and shell material to create the Omnishock Protection System. They combine multi-impact VICONIC inserts, EPP foam liner, soft-to-the-touch IMPAX foam, and a TRUE ONE shell to “protect against all types of impacts.” So what does it all mean? Using different types of foam, like EPP and IMPAX, along with a single shell design, Warrior is addressing comfort and impact resistance, making your brain bucket safer and easier to wear.
Warrior Hockey Helmets With Omnishock Protection System
These hockey helmets featuring the Omnishock Protection System are CSA, HECC, and CE certified.
CCM’s latest helmet technology focuses on the construction of the liner of the helmet. I.Q.Shion consists of a state-of-the-art foam that protects the head and wicks away moisture, keeping sweat out of your eyes and maintaining comfort on the ice. It was developed through CCM’s scientific partnerships with the University of Ottawa’s Neurotrauma Science Impact Laboratory and the École de technologie supérieure (Université de Québec). CCM believes that “investing in the scientific community will allow [us] to find solutions that will best protect players,” and it shows in their development of some of the top-performing player helmets available.
CCM Hockey Helmets Using I.Q.shion Foam Lining
These hockey helmets featuring I.Q.shion are CSA, CE, and HECC certified.
It’s important to note that no hockey helmet can completely prevent or eliminate head and brain injuries, including concussions. But these new technologies are another step towards chipping away at the severity and frequency of head injuries in hockey.