How to Buy a Hockey Helmet

Don’t hit the ice this season without a helmet that suits your playing style and fits your head properly.

Hockey is a fast-paced and hard-hitting sport. Players need to have the right gear to help contend with the high speeds, frozen puck and the physical nature of play.

Having the right helmet for the job is vital.

Hockey helmets are a necessary piece of protective equipment at every level of hockey. They are designed to offer protection with several key features, including a hard outer shell, foam interior and a facemask.


Whether you’re a grizzled veteran of the sport or skating onto the ice for the first time, the safety features of a helmet are important.

The outer shell of a helmet is typically made of a hard, plastic-like material called vinyl nitrile. The inside of the helmet, meanwhile, is lined with protective foam padding designed to cushion the player’s head. Generally, there are two types of foams used for the interior, including:

  • Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) – A harder foam that is covered with a softer foam for comfort and a snug fit. This is similar to the foam used in bike helmets.
  • Vinyl Nitrile (VN) – A soft, moldable foam that can provide a more snug fit.

Most helmets come with various levels of foam densities, called dual-density or multi-density. This is designed to maximize protection and comfort.

There should also be a four-point chin strap attached to the helmet. This is an important detail that helps ensure a proper fit. Make sure your helmet has ear covers, too, to help protect against additional impact.

Remember to always check your league’s rules before purchasing a new helmet and refer to the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings before use.


When you’re buying your new hockey helmet, one decision you’ll need to make is choosing between a one-piece or two-piece shell.

Younger players may want to consider a two-piece design, as it can offer more of a customized fit. Some two-piece helmets accomplish this with an adjustable single- or dual-screw system. Other helmets have tool-free adjustment features that allow necessary customization.

One-piece shells, meanwhile, can feature minimal adjustment qualities. These helmets can often come custom-fitted, however. They tend to be stiff, rigid and are often the preferred choice among elite and pro-level players.


Players from mite leagues up through the collegiate level will need a facemask on their helmet.

There are three types of facemasks:

  • Wire Cages – Made of either metal or composite materials, wire cages can offer strong protection and do not fog up like face shields.
  • Face Shields – Made from impact-resistant plastic. Some players prefer this clear option due to the greater vision offered.
  • Combination Masks – These are a combination of wire cages and face shields. A clear plastic shield covers the top of the face, while wire mesh helps protect the jaw area and adds ventilation.

You can buy your helmet with a facemask already installed, or you can combine an individual facemask with the helmet of your choice for a truly custom setup.


To make sure your helmet works as designed, it needs to fit properly.

Finding your fit starts by measuring your head. To do so:

  • Place a measuring tape at the back of your head where it protrude out the most.
  • Pull the tape around to the front of your head, meeting about 1/4 of an inch above your eyebrows.
  • This measurement will determine your head circumference.

Helmet sizes can vary from brand to brand and from model to model. Based on a brand preference, always check the manufacturer’s specific sizing chart to find your proper fit.

A helmet should fit snug, but not so tight that it causes discomfort. There should be no space between your head and the pads. With a proper fit, the helmet should not move when shaking your head, and the skin of your forehead should move with the helmet when you move it around.

The chin strap needs to be centered under your chin. A good test is to open your mouth wide. If the helmet doesn’t pull down on your head, the chin strap needs to be tightened.

Remember: changing your hairstyle can also alter the way your helmet fits.


Ventilation ports are a popular feature on helmets that can help players keep cool when the action on the ice heats up.

There are also some helmets that can allow for some team spirit or personality. You can get matching color inserts and change them out to showcase your team pride.

Having the right protective gear is important for every hockey player before the start of the season. Once you find a helmet that fits your needs, you’ll be one step closer to an MVP season.

Before you skate onto the ice, you’ll need to have the right gear. Check out this DICK’S Pro Tips guide to hockey gear.