When played at its peak levels, hockey is one of—if not the—most high-contact sports. But with a variety of leagues for all ages and levels of play, it’s likely that you play in a league with adjusted contact rules. Maybe it’s simply no checking, or maybe there are more stringent or looser rules for contact. If that’s the case for your league, you may not need high-profile shoulder pads. There are a number of options that will cut down on the bulk and weight of your pads (depending on the level of contact), and you might find you prefer playing with a more streamlined set of pads.
Shoulder Pad Options for No-Checking Leagues
Shoulder pads are probably the easiest area to lose bulk and weight when you’re playing in a no-checking league. While high-profile, rigid shoulder caps are great for absorbing and distributing big impacts, if you’re not checking, they’re not entirely necessary. If you have the Bauer Supreme 2S Pro, CCM Supertacks AS 1, or Warrior Alpha DX pads, they might be overkill for a no-checking adult league. But with plenty of other contact occurring, you’ll still want shoulder pads. Depending on your comfort versus protection preferences, consider stepping down to lighter-weight and lower-profile options like the Bauer Vapor 1X Lite, CCM Jetspeed FT350, or Warrior Alpha DX3.
If you’re looking to slim down even more on your shoulder pads, it’s hard to beat the Sherwood 5030 for maximum mobility with some level of hardshell protection. Featuring a classic look and feel, supported by a single-density foam back with augmented spine protection, these shoulder pads won’t hold you back on the ice but will be there when you take an unanticipated impact on the boards, in the middle of the ice, or from a high shot.
Shoulder Pad Options for No-Contact Leagues
Some veteran players in no-contact leagues opt to drop shoulder pads entirely. But even in no-contact leagues, unintended impacts still occur. If you don’t want to wear low-profile shoulder pads like those mentioned above, consider a padded shirt. Popular in inline leagues and as added protection under shoulder pads for players and goalies, padded shirts are a great option for just-in-case protection and for beginners, who can expect to make more upper-body contact with the ice.
Before committing to reducing your pads for a no-checking or no-contact league, consider your style of play. Are you someone who likes to skate into the corners at full speed? Without shoulder pads, you’ll likely be dialing back, consciously or not, knowing the potential impact that awaits. Is this your first time playing organized hockey? You’ll want to take any potential chirps for being over-geared, and go with what’s going to keep you comfortable, and more importantly, safe.
Also, consider your league. Within no-checking and no-contact leagues, there can be a ton of variation. Some no-checking leagues may trend towards no contact; others may see tempers flare more frequently and thus a little more contact. It’s best to play it safe and be prepared for contact on the ice. Talk to the league organizers and ask what they’d recommend for shoulder pad options.
Finally, no matter which shoulder pad solution you choose for no-checking or no-contact hockey, make sure they fit well. Poorly fitting shoulder pads are far worse than needlessly high-profile pads.
Whether you choose to stick with higher-profile, “full” shoulder pads, or slim down on your padding is up to you. No one who has taken an unexpected hit has ever regretted wearing pads that were too bulky. Get out there and have fun in your no-checking and no-contact leagues—they make hockey accessible to thousands and allow recreational careers to keep going.