Contact hockey leagues and even some non-contact leagues require players to wear shoulder pads to protect their chest, shoulders, upper back and arms. Body checks are usually made with the shoulders, so it only makes sense that you would want to wear proper protection for your shoulders. Even if you're not playing in a contact league, your shoulders are very likely to make contact with the boards, ice and other players throughout the course of a game. And running into the body of another player can often be the least of your worries; pucks and hockey sticks are often flying around at chest and shoulder height and can cause as much if not more damage than contact with another player's body.
We always recommend that even if your league doesn't require that you wear shoulder pads, you still ought to wear them along with every other available piece of protective hockey gear. There are so many brands and models of hockey shoulder pads to choose from, so finding a pair that you're happy with should be an easy task. Some players who choose not to wear shoulder pads say that it's because the shoulder caps get in the way or the pads are simply too restrictive. For these players we would suggest trying a pair of low profile shoulder pads that have smaller caps and thinner padding in the chest and arms. You may actually find that many competitive players wear these "old school" shoulder pads because they're lightweight and less cumbersome than larger pads that may offer more protection. It's a compromise, but some protection is better than none.
Hockey shoulder pad sizing is usually based on the height and weight of the player. In order to achieve the most comfortable fit, we suggest that you take into consideration the amount of coverage offered by your hockey elbow pads. An overlap of coverage by your elbow pads and the bicep protectors of your shoulder pads can cause discomfort and restrict your upper body mobility, so it's best to try both pieces of equipment on when making your decision. When you've selected a model of shoulder pads and you're on the product page, make sure to click on the sizing tab to view the information provided by the manufacturer of that specific product. Using the sizing chart that was provided by the manufacturer will help you get the best fit.