New Season, New Equipment
In our house, before the hockey season gets going, we're usually a little ahead of the curve when it comes to making sure everyone's equipment still fits. It's rare for us to need to hit a pro shop in a panic or overpay for overnight shipping.
Not saying that hasn't happened to us before but, well, actually, it hasn't. We're usually pretty well prepared.
But that isn't to say we don't run into a problem that nearly every other hockey family runs into when it comes to equipment!
On one of my son's teams, nearly every player on the team has worn through the palms of their gloves.
And every one of those kids has parents that are on the ball though as each one of those kids has a pair of nearly mint gloves in their bag that they're just not using cause, well, they just don't "feel" right.
In my head, I just want to tell my own kid to wear the new gloves. Just wear them. You'll get used to them. They're just not broken in.
My son wore his "new" gloves for, maybe 4 practices all season long? Could've been less.
Point is, they're not broken in. Not even close. And he still hates them.
In this, we're not alone.
So, sticking with gloves, my son's preferred pair of gloves are a pair of 10" Bauer Vapor APX2's.
The Bauer Vapor APX2 gloves debuted in 2014 and I believe we bought this pair, on clearance since it was already an older model, in the Spring of 2016.
Being that he's worn them for 4 seasons, their best days are in the distant past.
Like, they're done.
The fact that that model came out over 6 years ago means, well, there's pretty much no chance Bauer even manufactures that model anymore.
And this is the pickle.
We've tried to stick to the Vapor line from Bauer but he's continually said they don't feel "right". CCM doesn't feel right, either. He settled on a pair of Warriors two off-season's ago...but has only worn them 4 times in practice like I already mentioned.
We were just shooting in the dark.
What he really needs are another pair of what he has -- Bauer Vapor APX2's.
I've been keeping my eye on SidelineSwap and eBay for the past few years to see if a pair would pop up...and they do...but their palms are generally destroyed too.
Used gloves are gross anyway. Yuck. No thanks. Maybe it's just me?
So, during the quarantine period, I've been looking at, far too often, the usual places online -- HockeyMonkey, PureHockey, Perani's, Ice Warehouse, and Hockey1.
The websites are all super similar and the prices are all in line. Clearly the manufacturer's are setting the pricing.
There aren't really any deals to be had besides free shipping at a specific price point.
I'm gonna plug IceWarehouse here...and not just cause I've spent over $400 in the past week with them. Ugh...
What their website offers that the others don't, which I find super helpful, are filters for "Fit Type" for those of us who can never remember the subtle differences (in Bauer's case) between the Vapor, Supreme, Nexus lines.
Or what equivalent is on the CCM side of the aisle. I have no idea what the difference between JetSpeed's and SuperTacks are...a "Fit Type" filter would put me on the track if we decided to switch brands.
Even more helpful is the "Level of Play" filter. For nearly all of the equipment, you can choose between Elite, Performance, Recreation, and Street.
Given that my kids skate 5-6 days per week...I tend to lean towards the models that are within the Elite and Performance classifications.
Okay, tangent here...but I've gotta say it.
I'll be honest, for a majority of modern hockey equipment, far too often the recreational stuff you could just buy at Dick's Sporting Goods any day of the week looks almost exactly like the elite level stuff.
That's a good thing. Back when I was a kid, there was a ton of equipment shaming.
You know, the kids that wore those American Cougar skates that you could buy at any department store? Or even the low-end Bauer or CCM skates -- they looked...cheap.
These days, you can get a pair of Bauer or CCM skates for $50 or $1000. Aesthetically, they both look pretty much the same.
Even the rental skates at some of the rinks look pretty sweet!
Kudos to the manufacturers on that.
Okay, okay, sure there are still some equipment snobs out there that can immediately spot the cosmetic differences between the various models...but I'm telling you, you're in the minority. It's like people that can tell the difference between a regular Chevy and the version with the SS badge at first glance. Gear heads can... I certainly can't.
That said, while some of the entry level/recreational gear looks great and can do the job, it doesn't hold up like the more expensive models.
One of the kids wore an entry level CCM skate for a few months and looked just fine -- not a victim of equipment shaming and certainly no noticable drop in his performance. But then he blew out one of the rivets that held the boot to the holder. Yeah, game over for that pair of skates.
With my kids using this equipment 4-6 times per week, I've learned to lean more towards the elite and performance levels over anything else.
More costly equipment certainly doesn't make my kids better players, not for a second, but it tends to last a lot longer which makes it more cost effective.
Alright, back on topic.
So, on the IceWarehouse website, I'm looking at gloves and I have my filters set to Bauer for the brand, 11" for the size, black and red for the color, and level of play set to Elite.
Already, I'm down to 7 gloves to choose from. Not too bad
From there, since I know my son's current preferred gloves are from the Vapor line, I add a filter to set the Fit Type to "Tapered".
Boom -- 2 models to choose from and, bonus for me, they're both currently on clearance! (Like I said though, all of the websites had identical pricing.)
So, I'm left with the Bauer Vapor X900 and the Bauer Vapor 1X Lite.
True to what I said earlier about the manufacturers making all levels of their equipment "look" the same -- both models...look the same.
But here's where IceWarehouse surpasses the competition.
In their product overviews, they list the "Heritage" of each model -- meaning which model it's a continuation of.
This is info that I've never been able to find even on the manufacturer's websites (old models are dead to them as if they never happened) and I've come to learn that similar information on message boards or reddit are rife with inaccuracies. It's all hearsay.
IceWarehouse flatly puts out that the Bauer Vapor X900 Lite was previously just a Bauer Vapor X900. Before that, the same model was known as a X100.
The Bauer Vapor 1X Lite was previously the Bauer Vapor 1X. Prior to that, it was called a Bauer Vapor APX2.
Wait, did I just read that the Bauer Vapor 1X Lite is just a newer version of the Bauer Vapor APX2?
Why isn't this information available in more places? Why?!
Anyway, we bought a pair and after an hour of use...yeah, those old torn up APX2's probably won't even be in his hockey bag this season.
Total success story, right there.
We followed the exact same methodology for shin guards and pants too.
Who'd've known Bauer TotalOne MX3's are now called Supreme 2S Pro's?
There's no logical sense to it.
Now, my older son's shoulder pads are a whole different story.
He's been wearing a pair of Youth Small Bauer SP300 Shoulder pads since he was a mite that likely pre-date his birth ... He's worn them for 5 seasons now.
That model has long since been retired and it looks like, for a brief moment in time, Bauer used the same name for some all foam non-contact hockey style shoulder pads.
IceWarehouse's "heritage" listing doesn't go that far back, unfortunately.
So we've tried a few different options over the years, latest models, and we've run into two problems.
Most often -- his head doesn't fit through the neck hole easily.
He has a semi-decent sized head but nothing crazy but, even still, he was routinely tearing his earlobes while struggling to get the pads off. We even cut slits in the neck hole to make it larger and it still just didn't sit right on his frame. His youngest brother has the same issue.
The other problem we ran into was that many of the newer models fit more like football shoulder pads. Like, they eliminated the appearance of a neck. Linebackers can't stickhandle. They can't even swivel their head fully. Just really cumbersome and not really conducive to hockey.
For real, though, my kid doesn't have a huge head on top of a short neck. He doesn't.
And if the HUGE shoulder caps weren't enough, all of the shoulder pads we tried to upgrade to were really constricting...like a flak jacket or fancy life jacket. I understand the need for protection...but, in my opinion, the shoulder pads shouldn't interfere with the protection the pants or elbow pads provide. And they don't need to be like a compression suit either.
If you've ever been in a pro locker room before or after a game, the players don't look like Storm Troopers under their jerseys. They aren't covered in foam and plastic from head to toe. If anything, smaller shoulder pads make up the majority. Old Jofa shoulder pads (sometimes rebranded as Rbk) are still prevalent among guys that aren't "required" to wear the brand they represent.
Even Sherwood 5030's are worn in the NHL. Those are like $60 shoulder pads. They're so old fashioned that they have laces?!
Look 'em up! (No, not the ones from Dick's Sporting Goods... For real, don't ever reference Dick's for hockey equipment. Like, ever.)
You know what those Sherwood's offer? Protection, obviously, and their key feature is that offer unrestrained mobility. And they weigh less than elbow pads.
There's a reason all of the pro shops still sell them.
There's a reason Sherwood still makes them.
Minimalist shoulder pads are still widely used by professionals.
So, in our case, we've stuck with old school Bauer 300's. They protect the sternum. They protect the spine. And the relatively small plastic caps on the shoulders don't impede movement at all. Total win.
Now, Bauer doesn't manufacture minimalist shoulder pads anymore. Rather, they don't make anything as minimal as my son has grown accustomed to...and I'll be honest, it's because they make a TON of money schlepping $200 pads to poeple wanting to be just like Patrick Kane.
But, for us, this is where eBay and SidelineSwap have come in handy. My kids are all set on the shoulder pad front until they're adults -- and we've only been spending between $10 and $20 per pair. My oldest went from a youth small right to a junior medium and we have two more sizes up already in house for the future.
All three boys will be that guy with the $900 skates, a $400 helmet, $200 shin guards, and, by choice, $10 dollar second-hand old-timer shoulder pads.
Now, elbow pads are a whole different animal.
We've always struggled to find elbow pads that fit (and stay in place) correctly. At the onset of their hockey journeys, my two older boys wore the all foam pads with two velcro straps -- one above the elbow and one below. Super basic.
Without fail, during their time on the ice, they'd rotate and collapse in on themselves and make this odd butterfly origami shape. The straps would stay in place without issue...but the padding would all come together making it hard for them to bend their elbow...and, really, provide minimal protection.
If that didn't happen, I'd take their jersey off after practice and they'd have slipped down to essentially be wrist bands.
They just didn't work.
At a Walmart, if you can believe it, we stumbled across a pair of Bauer S170 elbow pads that had a hard plastic cap and a single strap.
I know -- it doesn't seem like a single strap would ever work on an elbow but it folds back and makes a Y shape to hold the pad in place. There isn't a strap on the top, above the elbow.
These things are awesome. Like, no joke. I wish I had these elbow pads.
One strap meant less velcro to get snagged on the jersey or shoulder pads and they had a hard cap to protect the elbow. The fold-over strapping system held it in place without fail. Just an awesome set of elbow pads.
So what did I do?
Besides going back to Walmart and finding nothings, I went online and ordered another pair of Bauer S170's in the exact same size for my middle son.
And what we received were tagged and emblazoned with S170...but they weren't the same.
Not even close.
They were foam pads with two straps. Exactly the same style we were trying to get away from.
Now, I get that Bauer uses the same product name for their youth and adult equipment and that they're not exactly the same product or made of the same materials.
I get it. Kids skates don't have removable steel cause, well, you outgrow them before you'd ever wear out the steel. Materials are a bit different too sometimes just due to the size or whatever...but the product is essentially still the same.
But these are both Bauer S170 Elbow pads in a youth large. Same year. Same model. Same size.
How can they use EXACT same model name for two totally different products?
I mean, these two aren't even close. In fact, I've never been able to find another pair of the hard cap S170 elbow pads in a youth size.
Walmart's website has them listed -- permanently out of stock, mind you -- but I haven't seen this style of pad at any pro shop or on any of the online sites.
I take that back -- they are on a few websites that I wouldn't be comfortable providing my credit card info to, if you know what I mean.
But, yeah...that's annoying so be really particular when trying to replace equipment with an exact copy. It doesn't always work out.
Thankfully, for us, my oldest has moved up to a super fancy junior sized elbow pad that has a sleeve and all kinds of customizable straps (and a pricetag to match!) so my middle son finally gets the pads I'd originally intended him to have.
My youngest, though?
Sorry dude... A slab of foam and some velcro is all I've got...but you have five or six variations of the same thing to choose from!
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