What Is the Difference Between Youth and Junior Hockey Sizes?

What Is the Difference Between Youth and Junior Hockey Sizes?

Youth and Junior Hockey Equipment

Choosing the proper size gear for your hockey player can be tricky business. There are so many pieces of equipment to sift through, and the sizing can be very confusing.

The difference between youth and junior hockey sizes is that youth sizes are smaller than junior sizes. However, sizing can depend on more than just your child’s age or league. You must also consider their height and what type of fit they want, among many other factors.

You may be feeling overwhelmed by all of the options, but don’t worry. This article will cover all of the information you need and more as we will discuss the different types of gear and how to decide if it’s the right fit. Continue reading for all the details about the difference between youth and junior hockey sizes.

What Is the Difference?

As mentioned, the main difference is that youth gear tends to be smaller for the younger players. This section will quickly detail what some of those differences are and explain some of the size discrepancies.

Youth Hockey

Youth hockey typically includes kids ages 3 to 8 and about 30 to 80 pounds (13 to 36 kilograms). However, keep in mind that your child may wear some equipment in sizes meant for older children. Since we cannot fit all kids into one box or another, they often must wear gear from two different sizing groups, making this process much more convoluted. Furthermore, sizing usually varies by brand, making the process that much more tricky.

Junior Hockey

Typically, junior hockey includes kids aged 7-13 and about 70-100 pounds (31 to 45 kilograms).

You may notice right away that there are two overlapping years in the youth versus juniors sizing, and there is a simple explanation for that. Sizing is not based strictly on age or league but rather a general estimate of a child’s size at these ages.

If you are the parent of multiple children, then you know that sizes can vary significantly between two children of the same or similar ages. This is partly what makes hockey sizing so complicated; a player might wear a youth shin guard but a junior helmet.

Protective Gear

Protective gear is just what it sounds like - the equipment intended to protect players against injuries from flying pucks, fly away sticks, or other players. This category includes helmets, shoulder pads, elbow pads, and shin guards.


The helmet is one of the only pieces of hockey equipment that does not differentiate between youth and junior sizing. Helmets are sized, similarly to regular clothing, from extra small to extra large. While brands vary in size, they are all measured by the circumference of the player’s head in inches, with the smallest available being about 19.5 inches (49.5 cm) and the largest being 25.6 inches (65 cm).

If you think you’re in the market for a junior-sized helmet, be sure to read our article looking into the best junior ice hockey helmets.

Shoulder Pads

When you or your child are getting fitted for shoulder pads, your shoulder must fit directly into the pads. Failing to get them to fit correctly can result in injuries due to a lack of protection. A good shoulder pad will allow for plenty of mobility and not restrict the player’s movement. It is a good idea to try on several sets of shoulder pads before purchasing one so that the player is familiar with how different brands and sizes feel.

Shoulder pads are measured by a combination of chest circumference in inches and the height of the child. Most brands will have medium and large in youth sizes, but not every company makes extra small and small. They range for children from three feet tall to four feet and seven inches tall. When you get up to junior sizing, sizing runs from small to extra large, with four feet being the smallest and five feet five inches being the largest.

Also, be sure to read our article covering how shoulder pads should fit for much more detail on this topic

Elbow Pads

When looking for elbow pads, they also must fit correctly. Your elbow should fit snugly into the pad and not move around during play. When trying them on, move your arms and elbows around in all directions to ensure that the pad stays in place.

For both youth and junior elbow pads, they come in small, medium, and large. Junior pads allow you to go up to size extra large. Sizing for elbow pads is a little less scientific than the previously mentioned gear. You can measure the player’s height and weight, which should correspond with one of the sizes mentioned above.

If you’re currently in the market for a set of elbow pads, be sure to read our article looking into the best junior hockey elbow pads.

Shin Guards

The sizing of the shin guards depends a lot on the player’s preferences. Just like the elbow and shoulder pads, you want your knees to fit snugly into the pad, and they should not be able to move around as you play. The player must decide if he wants the shin guard to cover the hockey skates’ tongue or if they will go behind it.

Shin guards are sized by how long they are in inches. You can estimate the proper size by measuring the child’s height, or you can more accurately measure from the center of the knee cap to where you want the shin guard to end. This is the part that might vary depending on your preference. Youth sizes range from seven inches to ten inches, while junior sizes range from ten inches to thirteen inches.


The glove fit depends a lot on a player’s personal preference and how they want the glove to feel. Some players prefer that their gloves fit tightly, giving them a little more control. However, the tighter option can restrict wrist mobility a little bit. It would be best if you tried both options to see what you prefer.

You can determine the proper glove size by measuring your arm from your middle knuckle to your elbow combined with the player’s height. Youth glove options come in either 8 inches or 9 inches, while junior gloves range from 10 to 13 inches.

Other Important Gear: Skates and Stick

Don’t worry; We have not forgotten the two most essential pieces of equipment. Of course, you can’t play ice hockey without skates and a stick. As the most critical gear, hockey players care a lot about their skates fit and how the stick feels in their hands.

Skate sizes correspond with shoe sizes but typically run about 1.5 sizes smaller. Youth skates run from a size 8 to 13.5, while junior skate sizes range from 1 to 5.5. Like a shoe, a proper fitting skate will give you a little bit of wiggle room, but your foot should not move freely in the skate. Be sure to read our article covering the differences between youth and junior hockey skates.

There is too much information about hockey sticks to pack all of it into this article. The shape, curve, material, grip, lie, and weight will vary between brands and depend on the player’s preference. While some sticks are rated as youth or junior, many are rated for all levels and ages. Choosing the right size for you will require a bit of research, so taking a read through our article describing the differences between youth and junior hockey sticks is probably a good idea.

Beyond the equipment discussed above, there is a lot more that goes into the full set of hockey equipment. Obviously, the players must wear something over all of their pads. Typically, this includes socks, pants, moisture-wicking undergarments, and the team jersey.

This also didn’t cover hockey pants and a protective cup, which are required to play ice hockey. Be sure to read our much more in-depth article on sizing youth hockey equipment for the perfect fit.

Final Thoughts

Despite the complex nature of sizing hockey equipment, we hope this article has helped you prepare for the upcoming hockey season. Try not to feel overwhelmed by it all. Most hockey or athletic stores will have experienced staff to help you find the right gear.

As you are shopping for hockey gear, the most important thing to keep in mind is that you should be open to moving within sizing categories. Many brands do not follow the same sizing standards, so your child may wear junior in one brand and youth in another brand.

And if you’re interested in getting an idea of the cost of all this equipment, be sure to read our article going over the average cost for a set of hockey equipment.