How to Buy Goalie Masks
Hockey Goalie Masks Buying Guide
Here is some advice from HockeyGiant.com on how to buy Goalie Masks
Goalie masks serve the purpose of protecting the head of a goaltender from pucks, sticks and other dangers on the ice. The position of goaltender requires more protection than any other position on the ice, and proper head protection is of the greatest necessity for all players, especially goaltenders. It's impossible to completely eliminate the risk of head injuries, but with proper protection the risk is dramatically reduced.
Goalie masks consist of a hard outer shell that is lined with foam padding, an adjustable backplate which keeps the mask secured by cradling the back of your head, and a metal cage which covers your face and allows you to see through the front of the mask. There are straps that run from the backplate to the mask shell which can be adjusted to provide a snug, secure fit.
Goalie Mask Features and Options
As is the case with any piece of hockey equipment, goalie masks are offered in many different shapes, sizes, colors, and designs, and they are also made with materials that deliver varying levels of durability, weight and comfort. When broken down into these three performance levels – Entry level, Competitive & Elite – you can see some key differences between "high quality" and "low quality" goalie masks. We'll discuss three aspects/elements of goalie masks (Shell, Cage & Padding) which will make it a little easier to see exactly what you're paying for when you fork out the extra dough for a higher quality mask. Keep in mind that although each individual feature may only slightly decrease in quality as you move down in price range, the overall quality of the mask varies more greatly when you look at each mask as the "sum of its parts".
Elite Goalie Masks ($500 +)
Goaltenders that play highly competitive hockey will face harder, more powerful shots and therefore require a higher quality mask in order to properly protect themselves. Collegiate, junior, AAA and minor pro players should most definitely consider using an elite level goalie mask. Elite masks are usually handcrafted to ensure that they're free from blemishes and structural defects. Elite level masks are almost always HECC and CSA certified.
Elite level masks usually contain carbon composite, high impact Ballistic Lexan or Kevlar in the mask shell, providing a stronger, lighter, more durable construction. Some elite level masks are constructed with fiberglass rather than carbon composite or Kevlar, but keep in mind that every material, fiberglass included, is produced in a wide range of compounds that vary in terms of overall quality. Only high quality materials are used in the construction of elite level masks.
The cage of an elite level mask is made with highly durable, rust-resistant materials such as titanium, which may also be chrome plated for an even stronger and more attractive finish. Reinforced cages are built to withstand high-velocity puck impacts, but a hard enough shot can cause any cage to bend. It isn't necessarily commonplace, but high level masks are sometimes offered with the option of choosing different wire configuration styles at the time of purchase (Cateye, Standard Certified, etc.) as well, which is convenient for goalies who have developed a strong preference for one type over another.
The internal padding of an elite goalie mask will provide a more comfortable, contoured fit, with high quality foam to absorb shock from impacts, and gel pads to further increase the comfort of the mask. Several different types of foams are often used in the construction of the mask in order to maximize comfort and protection while minimizing the weight of the mask. When you put on a well crafted mask, you can definitely feel the difference.
Competitive Goalie Masks ($250 – 500)
Mid-level goalie masks provide ample protection for the majority of goaltenders out there. Whether you're a teenage player on a high school team or a beer leaguer playing on Sunday nights, this is probably the most appropriate type of mask for you. Mid level masks are very comparable to elite level masks at first glance, but there are some differences to take note of.
The shell of a mid level mask is usually made with highly durable fiberglass. Mid level masks tend to weigh just a little bit more than elite level masks, but the difference isn't tremendous. It's quite rare these days, because of the recent advances in material fabrication, but if a player takes a hard enough shot at a goaltender's mask then it could chip or crack. In order to combat this kind of damage, certain parts of the mask are usually reinforced with composite materials – areas such as the chin, forehead and ear holes. Full composite masks are more durable than fiberglass masks, but there's still a fairly low likelihood that a mid-level mask will chip, crack or break even when used by a highly competitive goalie.
Cages on mid level masks are pretty close to the quality of cages on elite level masks, and in some cases they're exactly the same. High quality cages are usually slightly stronger and more rust-resistant than mid-level cages. Whether you're wearing a $900 dollar mask or a $400 mask, if you take a hard enough shot to your cage then the wires are likely to bend out of shape. Elite level cages can withstand slightly greater impacts than mid level, competitive cages. Cages are often interchangeable, with a few exceptions, so you can always shop around to find one that you like better than the one that comes with your mask. Always feel free to contact a Hockey Giant customer service rep in order to verify cage compatibility.
Mid level, competitive masks are very well padded and provide a comfortable, protective fit. In some cases, mid level masks contain more padding than elite level masks, in terms of overall mass. Weight and density are the main differences between the padding found in mid level masks and elite level masks. Mid level masks contain more, thick vinyl foam than elite level masks, but fewer variations of foam densities. The benefit of using several types of foams (aka Dual Density, Triple Density, etc.) with different densities is that the padding can be more strategically placed to provide optimal protection and comfort in specifically targeted areas. Mid level masks contain more types of foam than entry level masks but less than elite level masks.
Entry Level Goalie Masks ($250 and under)
Children and low level recreational goalies are far less likely than mid and elite level goaltenders to face dangerous, high velocity shots. This isn't to say that a relatively weaker shot can't still cause damage, but the amount of protection required is proportional to the level of competition at which the goaltender is playing. We are not suggesting that you ought to simply go out and try to find the cheapest mask available if you're a beginner. You only get one head and you ought to protect yourself accordingly, taking every precaution necessary to limit the threat of suffering a serious head injury. Always wear a mask that is HECC and CSA certified.
Entry level masks are typically constructed with fiberglass, Lexan plastic or a similar plastic-based compound. Certain parts of the mask, such as the chin and forehead, may be moderately reinforced with carbon composite, but these materials are used more sparingly on entry level masks.
Once again, cages don't vary too much from low, to mid, to high end masks. Entry level masks usually come with standard cages rather than cateye cages, although there are exceptions. If you're a beginner, it's important to note that not all cages are certified for use in organized USA hockey games. Some cat-eye cages have holes that are too large to keep the end of a players stick from poking through the wires. Some leagues check for certification while others do not. The key is to find a cage that is certified and allows you to see through the wires without much visual interference.
The padding found in entry level masks is usually single or dual-density VN (vinyl nitrile) comfort foam, which is thick and fairly soft. Less foam variations are found in entry level masks than in mid and advanced level masks. This means that the mask is likely to be just a little bit heavier and may not absorb quite as much shock as the padding in a competitive or elite level mask.
Goalie Mask Fit & Sizing
Sizing for goalie masks varies from one model to the next. Charts containing head circumference measurements and/or hat sizes are provided by the manufacturers for each specific model. Make sure you refer to the appropriate chart when purchasing a new mask rather than assuming that all models are consistently sized.
Goalie Mask Sizing Guide