Typically, ice hockey players are children to young adults. It was once thought that children should be started as early as possible to become successful in ice hockey, but that is no longer the case. In fact, some professionals discourage early specialized play of the sports as it increases the risk of injury, which may cut the player’s career short.
We think that the best age to start playing ice hockey is when the player gets excited about playing ice hockey. Whether that age is five or fifty, they’ll be much better at playing the sport if you are excited about playing it. While children are not allowed to play on a team before the age of five, they can begin learning the skills for the game earlier or later than that age.
Each country has hockey leagues in place to regulate how the game is played and who can play where. Usually, there is a major and a minor league. Anyone below the age of twenty-one is typically considered to be in a minor league. However, some players may join professional ice hockey while still a teenager.
Rules state that children may not start to play ice hockey with a team until the age of five. Children need to have several life skills mastered at least to some degree before beginning ice hockey since it is a sport that requires
- Knowledge of the game
- The ability to ice skate
- A good understanding of rules
- The ability to follow commands
- The strength to adequately use hockey equipment
Children younger than five often have difficulty with one or more of these skills. Now, that’s not to say that your child can’t get on the ice before age five. They absolutely can.
In fact, it probably would be best if you took age four to teach your child ice skating so that they have that skill mastered before attempting to learn ice hockey.
Ice skating, which is a necessary component of ice hockey, requires complex movements and good balance. Most children have achieved the balance and muscle strength needed to execute these skills by age four.
So, taking that time to build skill and strength will
- Reduce the stress of learning two complicated skills at once
- Give your child a running start when they do become old enough to play
That doesn’t mean that they have to start playing at five.
If your child is not excited about playing ice hockey at five, it is best to go with whatever they are excited about. If ice hockey is not their thing, it will only create stress and tension for both of you if you insist that they should play ice hockey.
Just because you love ice hockey doesn’t necessarily mean that your child will view the sport in the same way.
Letting them explore other types of sports will help them find what feels natural to them. Maybe your child hates the cold and wet. They likely aren’t going to be passionate about ice hockey because of the environment necessary to play the game.
Or maybe they just really don’t like contact sports at all; it may just be too rough for them. It’s okay if they’d rather do something a little less physical. At some point, they may eventually become curious about ice hockey and choose to try it.
The key is not to force anything. We’re all different, and we all like different things. Let your child’s natural tendencies and talents guide them into which sport to choose or if they choose a sport at all.
No. You are never too old for ice hockey. The AHL accepts players 18 years old and up; those under the age of 18 will go into one of the minor leagues appropriate for their age.
Of course, it isn’t likely that a 30-year-old will get accepted into the AHL, but you don’t have to go pro to play ice hockey.
If recreational play is your goal, then as long as you can stand on skates, you’re not too old to play ice hockey. You don’t even need to be in a league; just find some friends who love the game and hit the rink!
There will be considerable start-up expenses you should be prepared for at whatever age you or your child has decided to start playing ice hockey.
Before you ever set foot on the ice, there are several essential pieces of equipment you must buy.
- Hockey sticks
- Hockey pants
- Hockey socks
- Shoulder pads
- Elbow pads
- Shin pads
- Hockey bag
A few of these pieces need to be discussed in further detail for maximum safety.
A helmet is one of the most critical pieces of safety equipment for the ice hockey player, so you definitely don’t want to skimp here. Ideally, you should buy a new helmet instead of a used one to reduce the risk of injury due to previously used safety equipment.
Another risk in buying a used helmet is the risk of structural damage that compromises the helmet’s ability to protect the player from injury. The honeycomb-like layer in the top of the helmet can be compromised by
- A drop
- A fall
- Contact with another player
- Contact with a puck
- Contact with a hockey stick
Buying used helmets means that you have no idea what the helmet has been through and whether the lining is intact.
If you do opt for a used helmet, make sure you disinfect and sterilize it thoroughly and let it lie in full sun for several hours.
This is one piece of equipment you maybe shouldn’t buy online. The helmet needs to be a perfect fit for the size and shape of the player’s head, so we recommend purchasing it in a store where you can try the helmet on for size and comfort.
If you are outfitting your child for the ice, a face mask must be attached to the helmet. Although not required for adults, it is still a good idea.
It is essential that the hockey sticks are the right length. Hockey sticks that are too long will be cumbersome and hard to handle. They may even pose a safety risk to the player or those in their vicinity. Too short hockey sticks will require the player to bend, causing back strain and missed shots.
To accurately measure hockey sticks, have the player stand barefoot and hold the stick with the tip of the blade touching the floor. The butt end of the stick should just reach their chin.
The skates chosen for ice hockey need to be the correct size for the players feet. Skates that are too big will cause the foot to slide back and forth, posing a fall hazard and making it more difficult than necessary to play. They may even cause blisters on the heel, which is extremely painful.
When buying for children, it can be tempting to purchase skates a size or two larger than needed so that they will last longer. Don’t do this! You risk your child’s comfort and wellbeing along with their potential to excel at a game they love.
Skates that are too small will pinch and restrict movement, distracting the player from the game. Skates should be an exact fit so that, standing, the player’s heel is touching the back of the boot, and there is just enough room to wiggle the toes.
For young children, it is not a good idea to get buckle skates. Especially when they are just learning to skate, a fall can cause the buckle to pop open, leading to ankle injuries. It is best to lace-up skates when possible.
Whether you start early or late, remember the important thing about ice hockey, or any sport, is the life lessons you learn through being part of a team.