Q: I'm a new hockey mom and my twin six-year-old boy and girl are beginning their first season of 8U hockey. I am a bit overwhelmed with all of the different types, sizes and cost of equipment. Where do I start?
A: Don’t stress out; it can be easier (and less expensive) than you think.
While gearing up your youngster can be an intimidating task to any new hockey family, especially if you have twins or multiple children, don’t let it diminish your family’s hockey enthusiasm.
Equipment is important, but not every piece is vital to your child’s participation. In fact, not all protective equipment is mandatory in all age classifications, according to the USA Hockey rulebook.
It’s important to avoid weighing your 8U player down on the ice. And finding equipment that fits properly is better and more important than finding expensive, brand-new or slightly oversized equipment that they can “grow into.” Yes, children grow fast and usually outgrow their equipment by the end of the season, but gear that fits properly, even if they will outgrow it sooner, will help them play and develop better. The good news is that there’s absolutely no need to overdo it in terms of the latest and greatest (and most expensive) technology at 8U.
Most hockey brands offer lines of inventory at various price points. Usually gear from the lowest price point is more than sufficient at this introductory level of hockey. Hockey sticks are an especially good example of this. Simple, inexpensive, minimally curved wood or one-piece sticks are sufficient for the 8U player. I rarely see mites executing the physics that put the flex point of a graphite shaft to optimal use anyway. The 8U player is typically too small and/or too weak to benefit from this technology, so there’s no reason to pay for it.
As for equipment, find simple padding that is light on your child and fits properly. This will allow your child greater mobility, which will help them acquire and execute hockey skills easier, and also be more comfortable, which translates to more enjoyment of the game. Think of it as streamlining your player.
Remember also that used equipment can be good. As a hockey parent myself, my second child has enjoyed “hand-me-downs” during his mite experience. I’ve found that he enjoys his older brother’s used equipment because it doesn’t require breaking in. And realistically, 8U kids almost never put enough wear and tear on a piece of equipment to destroy it before they grow out of it. So don’t be afraid to use hand-me-downs or approach other hockey families or take advantage of used equipment sales. Most youth associations hold used hockey equipment sales at the start of the season. Just be sure to check all pieces of used equipment to ensure that they are clean and in good repair.
Remember, hockey should not be about making a fashion statement. Simple, lightweight equipment will suffice in providing your 8U children a safe opportunity to learn and excel on the ice. Now go lace up those skates and enjoy watching your child play the best game in the world.