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Hockey Equipment: Modifications and Modernizations

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Hockey is known to most people as a violent, active sport with lots of injuries and aggressive behavior. And while this is true, there are precautions and advancements that have been made in order to help decrease the risk of injuries. Every player on the ice wears padding to a certain degree, including the referees-who need to wear at least a helmet to protect themselves from flying pucks and players skating along the boards.

The player on the ice that requires the most amount of protection is the goaltender.

There was a time where all of the players on the ice had the same exact stick, including the goalies. 

Today, a goaltender’s stick is much different than the others, and has a much fatter paddle at the end of it. The government of Canada explains that “originally, all players used the same sticks, but soon the goaltender’s stick featured a thick paddle on the bottom half to assist in stopping pucks.” Evan Hoehne, one of the goalies that plays for the Liberty Lancers ice hockey team mentions that “[the stick] is just as important for goalies as it is for players because it guides all of our movements in the crease,” which then allows them to perform better and smoother.

Along with this, the goaltender’s blocker and glove has evolved immensely. Before the evolution of the glove and blocker, goaltenders wore the same gloves as the other players did. This changed, however, when Emile Francis used a baseball glove during a New York Rangers games. He is also credited with the creation of the “blocker” when he taped a rubber sponge on his stick-hand glove.

One thing however, that could still be improved and wanted for goaltending gear would be the price.  Hoehne said that “the price of just the two long leg pads is about $1000! And you still have at least ten other pieces to buy on top of that, which are not cheap either.” While all of this gear is extremely necessary to play this position, it would be much more desired if it were to come at a lesser cost.

As far as defensemen and forwards go, their protective and playing gear has also evolved over time. Originally, the hockey stick was made 

“using wood from the hornbeam tree — sometimes known as ironwood for its strength — the carvers create an implement that resembles today’s field-hockey sticks, with a short, upturned blade,” explains Dave Feschuk, a sports columnist for The Star.

Beginning in the 1950s, the stick was wrapped in fiberglass; which was found to be stronger, cheaper, and more reliable. As the 1960s approached, Chicago Blackhawks players Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita began experimenting with curving the end of the blade, and many people followed. With these advancements made, today’s stick is mainly composed of fiberglass, some wood, and has a curved blade-depending on the players dominant hand.  

The most notable change made to hockey equipment is the most important piece of equipment to play hockey-the ice skate. Originally, ice skating was tying a sharp blade or the bone of a deer or elk to the bottom of a snow boot. Today, the blades, which are tempered steel and coated with a high-quality chrome, are attached to the heel of the skate boot. Hockey skate blades differ from figure skating skates because hockey skates don’t have a toe pick; which is a sawlike teeth located at the front of the blade used for getting a firm grip and to dig into the ice prior to the jump.

The final piece of hockey gear that has yet to be mentioned is the helmet. Ultimately, this provides cushion to the players’ head and is very important seeing as hockey is an extreme contact sport. With players making hits frequently, the head needs to be protected. Surprisingly, helmets weren’t given much attention until fairly recently–after concussion studies have come out. The helmets started out as leather, but were then made of plastic with a wire cage years later. In 1973, the visor was introduced and added to the helmets. In 1979, players were required to wear helmets, although several players were “grandfathered” in due to their longevity in the league.  Not all players had the visors or cages attached to their helmets until 2006, when it was required. The advancements made on the helmets have proven to be extremely important in protecting the players head and preserving their stable health.

As years continue to go by, many more advancements and precautions are bound to be implied within any level of hockey: from pee-wee all the way up to the professional level. With new studies being made, additional issues can be addressed and prevented allowing the dangerous sport of hockey to become safer for everyone on the ice.

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