When hockey was first played on rinks in Canada and the United States, all a player was required to have was a hockey stick and skates. Nowadays, that’s simply not the case.
Hockey equipment such as skates were first used by Scandinavians, the Finnish and Dutch during the 11th century for leisure purposes and it wasn’t until the early 1800s when skates were reportedly first used for hockey. In 1886, vulcanized rubber discs also came on the scene. The puck was born.
The Hockey Gauntlet
In 1904, the hockey gauntlet was created. The gauntlet or padded hockey glove quickly became popular in hockey circles and consisted of a black sheepskin back and cuff. Approximately six years later, the very first pair of hockey pants were sold to the public as well. Also, wider goal sticks were being sold in stores.
The Year 1912: A Big Year For Hockey
The year 1912 was a big year in the evolution of hockey equipment. The very first knee pad was created and was made from padded leather and was held to the leg with leather buckled straps. Meanwhile, the shin pad would also be created and would be worn beneath player’s stockings and was held in place with circular garters made from inner tubes.
Goaltender leg pads were also invented and were worn outside the player’s stocking.
Owen Initiates Helmet Movement
George Owen was reportedly the first hockey player credited to wear a helmet. Owen played football at Harvard University before joining the National Hockey League’s Boston Bruins in 1928. He wore his leather football helmet when he joined the NHL.
Helmets would eventually be made from a plastic substance and have become mandatory in the National Hockey League. They are also essential in organized hockey.
Shoulder Pads And The Invention Of The Face Mask
In 1940, shoulder pads were created, and although they were initially used for defencemen only, they would eventually be marketed for all players.
On Nov. 1, 1959, former NHL goaltender Jacques Plante was the first to ever use a face mask after being hit with a puck in the face during a game. Plante’s incident created a market for the face mask and it’s been a staple piece of equipment for netminders ever since.
Hockey Equipment Continues To Improve
Hockey experts continue to find new ways to make equipment lighter and more comfortable for its players. All the while, continuing to look for ways to better protect the people buying the products, which in the end, is the main reason hockey equipment was invented in the first place.