Hockey helmet

Hockey helmet

A hockey helmet is worn by ice hockey players and field hockey goalkeepers to protect the head from potential injury.

Hockey helmets grip the head from inside by cupping the back of head, or the occipital protuberance. Helmet manufacturers will have a chart that corresponds their helmet sizes to head measurements.

Most helmets have "tool-free" adjustments but on older models the helmet size is adjusted by loosening the screws on the side to slide the front portion forward or back.

The shell of a hockey helmet is made of a substance called vinyl nitrile that disperses force and absorbs the impact of hits by pucks, sticks, skates or contact with the ice, to reduce the chances of concussion.

Helmets in the National Hockey League

In August 1979, then president of the National Hockey League (NHL), John Ziegler, announced that protective helmets would become mandatory in the NHL. "The introduction of the helmet rule will be an additional safety factor," he said. The only exception to the rule are players -- after signing a waiver form -- who signed pro contracts prior to 1 June, 1979. Essentially, this grandfather clause allowed hockey's veterans to choose whether or not they wanted to wear helmets but forced all new players to wear them.

The first player to regularly wear a helmet for protective purposes was George Owen, who played for the Boston Bruins in 1928-29. The last player to go sans helmet was Craig MacTavish who last played during the 1996-97 season for the St. Louis Blues.

In 1927 Barney Stanley presented a prototype of a helmet at the NHL's annual meeting. It was quickly rejected. Other than George Owen a year later, the helmet didn't appear again until after the infamous Ace Bailey/Eddie Shore incident on 12 December, 1933. Ace Bailey almost died and Eddie Shore suffered a severe head injury. After that, Art Ross engineered a new helmet design and when the Boston Bruins took to the ice in a game against the Ottawa Senators, most of the players donned the new helmet. The next game, though, most of the Bruin players didn't wear it. Eddie Shore was one of the players who did wear it, though. Shore would wear a helmet for the rest of his career.

In the 1930s, the Toronto Maple Leaf players were ordered to add helmets to their equipment. A few minutes into the first game with the new helmets, King Clancy flung his helmet off. Shortly thereafter the other Leafs followed suit.

Over the next several decades, helmets, for the most part, remained unpopular with players. The fans, media, and other players berated players who did wear helmets. A few players, such as Des Smith, Bill Mosienko, Dit Clapper, and Don Gallinger all ignored the stigma and donned helmets. Even Rocket Richard and Elmer Lach briefly wore helmets. Jack Crawford wore a helmet to hide his bald head and Charlie Burns wore one to protect the metal plate in his head. Paul Henderson famously put on a helmet in the 1972 Summit Series after being hit in the head. All the Russians in that series wore helmets. Helmets didn't have the same stigma in European leagues that they did in North American leagues.

It was not until the death of Bill Masterton that the stigma started to change. On 13 January, 1968 in a game between the Minnesota North Stars and Oakland Seals, two Seals' players, Larry Cahan and Ron Harris, hit Bill Masterton sending him flying. Masterton's head hit the ice hard. With blood running from his nose and ears, he was rushed to the hospital. Four doctors worked for 30 hours to try and save him, but were unsuccessful as he died of "massive brain injury". Eleven years later, the NHL mandated the use of helmets. By that time, 70% of players were already wearing them.


A visor or shield in ice hockey is a device attached to the front of a helmet to reduce potential of injury to the face. It may cover the upper half of the face or the full face. There is currently a great debate about whether NHL players should be forced to wear visors like they are with helmets. A series of eye injuries, most notably that to Bryan Berard, have led to a call from many to enforce their wearing. Currently the minority of NHL players wear visors. Many other leagues around the world mandate the use of visors.

Visors, made of a high impact-resistant plastic, offer better overall vision than the wire cages available, which can obscure vision in certain areas. The face shield provides excellent straight ahead and peripheral vision, but does not provide as good of air flow as the cage. This causes the shield to fog up during play.

The wire cage consists of a metal or composite mesh that covers the face. These are available for half or full facial protection. The bars, or cage, are spaced far enough apart to allow you to see through to the action but are close enough to stop pucks and sticks from getting through to injure the face.

Combination masks

Some manufacturers now offer the best of both designs -- a plastic face shield to protect the eyes and upper part of the face, and a wire mesh to cover the lower jaw and to add ventilation.

In 2002, the British Journal of Sports medicine published a study identifying the protection offered against concussions between the half-face shield and the full face shield. The use of a full face shield compared with half face shield significantly reduced the playing time lost because of concussion, suggesting that concussion severity may be reduced by the use of a full face shield.


* Nike Bauer
* Reebok RBK (including CCM/Koho/Jofa)
* Itech
* Mission Hockey

ee also

* Goalie mask
* Helmet

References [ Proper Fit For A Hockey Helmet] Reviewed May 26, 2004

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