Uniforms of Mystery

I’m totally confused about all the gear that hockey players wear. First of all, it seems like they are wearing hundreds of layers. Second of all, all those layers seem incredibly complicated. It’s not just a few layers of long underwear, it’s like….ropes and pulleys under there. For the most part I enjoy the mysterious nature of the hockey uniform and I’m content to leave it be, uninvestigated.  I like how they look all bundled up in their warrior armor.  As Schnookie once said, hockey players are the modern day version of these ladies:

What in the hell?

Every once in awhile I catch a glimpse of something like this, and I practically faint dead away. Somehow that picture is ten times more scandalous than if Sidney Crosby were simply naked. That photo creates waaaay more questions than it answers. Why do they wear ginormous leggings with garter belts? Wouldn’t full-length stretchy pants be more comfortable? Why is Ryan Malone wearing those knee high white socks in addition to his ginormous blue leggings? What’s going on with all the straps and dangling strings around Sid’s waist? And don’t even get me started on the protective cup. (I’m old enough to be Sidney’s great-grandmother, so I’m not even being [that] dirty about this particular situation….these are legitimate questions.)

For the most part I am perfectly happy to remain ignorant about the inner workings of the hockey uniform, but there is one element of the hockey shorts that’s been bugging me all year. Why, in the name of Lindy Ruff, do hockey shorts have that weird patch of mismatched material down the center?

My first instinct is to say the material is something stretchier than the rest of the shorts to prevent splitting, but those shorts don’t seem very snug; it’s hard to imagine that they could be split, even during the most athletic on-ice pirouettes. Does anyone know what’s up with that mismatched patch?

(Only Partially Related to this Post: You guys, it’s going to be a really long off-season! What am I going to write about in August if I’m writing about the mysteries of hockey shorts on May 6th? Totally Unrelated to this Post: Go check out how ModFan talked ourselves back into loving the playoffs!)

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28 Responses to “Uniforms of Mystery”


  1. 1 Erin May 6, 2008 at 9:57 pm

    You are totally reading my mind. I saw that same picture of Sid and I was like, “Wha-wha-what??!!!” Why the garter? Why the funny sock/pants? Why is the cup on the outside? Huh? I remember the first time I saw that the hockey shorts stand up on their own…like woah. But I guess it’s the kind of mystery I don’t really want to know the answer to. It’s better to be ignorant sometimes.

    Secondly, I was so elated when I saw that the Sabres singed Gebre today. It reminded me that the new season will eventually be here and there will be familiar faces and new guys to love. AND, don’t forget about the draft, free agency, and the awards ceremony. You’ll be so busy with so many witty posts the summer will fly by.

    Your fan,
    Erin

  2. 2 JBo May 7, 2008 at 12:01 am

    You do know that they’re wearing all that gear getting ready for the Ice Bowl, right? That’s one of the stadium dressing rooms there. The garter belt is a mystery hahahaha but I think Ryan Malone is wearing the socks as a caution to being warm.

  3. 3 Mara from PDX May 7, 2008 at 12:11 am

    Ok, seriously, the hockey player in me is just weeping. You must be educated!

    1. They’re socks, not leggings! Yes, they have no feet. But they are hockey socks! (And the new spandex monstrosities are an affront to GOD.) If they were a full set of pants, it’d just be a whole ‘nother layer to pile on. The socks A)hold the shin guards tight against the leg and B)change color to match the jersey. Just like a soccer player’s socks.

    Most guys wear regular socks under the hockey socks because they wear socks under their skates. (Some guys do go barefoot. Personal choice.) Regular socks also absorb sweat, and keep the shin guard straps from rubbing on the calf.

    2. The garter/jockstrap combo is old school. Casual players and some younger players are shifting to a pair of shorts (either loose mesh or tight spandex) with a pocket for the cup (girls too, except I don’t wear my cup because I can’t skate with it in), and velcro on the front and back of the legs to hold the socks up. I don’t know how well the velcro works with the new spandex socks, so maybe NHLers HAVE to wear garters.

    3. The dark stripe on the butt of the pants (PANTS, not shorts! Or breezers, which is really old-school) is stretchy. Black pants have it too, you just can’t see it as well. And it’s not just on goalie pants, it’s on all players. The pants are big on the outside, but not that loose–there’s a lot of hard plastic and foam in there. The thighs, tailbone, kidneys, and hipbones all have hard plastic plates over them. Mine (the same model WHL teams wear) are so stiff they stand up by themselves. If they didn’t stretch in the but, you wouldn’t be able to bend at all.

    4. I don’t know what the white string dangling in front of the Sidbits is. A drawstring of some sort, but I don’t know what he’s wearing that would have one. The spandex shorts, I guess.

    Hope that helps!

  4. 4 Mags May 7, 2008 at 4:30 am

    I’m with Mara, seriously Kate, you’re making me cry. We need to get you suited up in hockey gear just once, and then you’ll know aaaall about it.

  5. 5 Katebits May 7, 2008 at 7:35 am

    Hee. Oh, ladies. Don’t cry! In certain cases (hockey uniforms included), I cling to my ignorance like a delightful prize. ;) Much like a fourteen-year-old boy and the mysteries of the bra, I find the garments themselves appealing, regardless of their function. But thank you for the education Mara, because it turns out hockey leggings are no less delightful when called “socks”, and I was genuinely curious about the mismatched part of the pants. I really did need that mystery solved.

    JBo, I did know that they were suiting up for the Ice Bowl in that photo, but I did not stop to consider that some of their layers might have to do with issues of warmth. That makes perfect sense.

    Erin, YAY! Gerbe!

  6. 6 danielleia May 7, 2008 at 7:44 am

    I don’t get it either. I tried to watch once (not in a perverted way), but I got lost really quickly. The goalie pants especially, I also commented on how they kept showing Lundquist’s behind during the last Pens game. A lot. Ha.

  7. 7 Jennfer May 7, 2008 at 7:47 am

    Katebits, you are not alone. I have often wonder about many parts of the “hockey uniform”, especially the stripe down the back of the pants. I won’t tell you what I thought the first time I noticed it. GROSS!

  8. 8 Katebits May 7, 2008 at 8:04 am

    Jennfer, I was very concerned that that strip had to do with issues of “breathability”, so the less-gruesome truth was quite welcome news. :D

  9. 9 Erin May 7, 2008 at 8:21 am

    The first time I noticed the funny colored strip on the pants I thought it was a sweat stain!! Whooops!!

    Also, Katebits, I notice after I submitted my comment that I spelled Gerbe wrong. Does anyone know how this is pronouced? Where’s Rick Jeanneret when you need him?

  10. 10 Schnookie May 7, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Katebits, I’m like you — I’m clinging to my innocence/ignorance when it comes to hockey uniforms. I like to think of them as an atomic whole. I’ve been watching hockey for almost 15 years, and I’ve had the various components of unis explained hundreds of times, and I just keep saying “LA LA LA LA! I’M NOT LISTENING!” It just… hockey uniform. If I knew all the parts, how could I be titillated and scandalized when I see players in various states of undress? :D

  11. 11 Meg May 7, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Erin, I think it’s pronounce Ger-bee, although I’m not positive.

  12. 12 Meg May 7, 2008 at 8:56 am

    “Pronounced” not “pronounce,” that is. I might have just proven that I’m not the most reliable of sources on such matters. :)

  13. 13 Pookie May 7, 2008 at 9:35 am

    I’m clinging to my innocence/ignorance when it comes to hockey uniforms.

    Me too! Partly because I like the Victorian thrill and partly because, well, not knowing how a player keeps his cup on doesn’t seem to affect my knowledge of how the game is played, you know? :D

  14. 14 Amy May 7, 2008 at 10:23 am

    I’m just really amused that they use what looks to be packing tape to hold up their socks. These guys make how much money per year and the use packing tape?!

  15. 15 Danielleia May 7, 2008 at 10:39 am

    Erin: “Grrr-Bee”

  16. 16 Shari May 7, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    And my son is still the last one out of the locker room changing out of all that mess. I don’t get the garter belts either. I’m convinced men just like to wear them.

  17. 17 alixlovesmatty May 7, 2008 at 1:02 pm

    I’ve always found the garter belts hot! I’m kind of bummed about the velcro.

  18. 18 mcguffers May 7, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    I’m just really amused that they use what looks to be packing tape to hold up their socks

    I’m with Amy. After all those explanations about bendability and protection, no one’s devised a way to keep up socks other than Fed Ex?

    Katebits, this post reminded me of my “hobby” when I was stuck on bedrest this February. Just like a logic problem, I tried to figure out who’s lockers were next to each other purely from watching the background of interviews from the locker room. It was a great way to pass an hour in the 384 hours I couldn’t move.

  19. 19 Valerie May 7, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    I think it can be pronounced Gerb-ee or Gerb-ay.

  20. 20 Heather B. May 7, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Pants with no legs are shorts! I don’t care what the “proper” term is.

    Kate, I get the whole Victorian thing though. I have a picture of Hank wearing his arm and shoulder pads with no jersey over them and it’s amazing how titillating I find it even though he’s completely covered. Same thing with a picture I have of Jay McKee. He’s fully dressed from the waist down but on top he’s just wearing the suspender things and a t-shirt. He’s wearing a t-shirt so you can’t see anything toward but still… sexy.

  21. 21 LizzieB May 7, 2008 at 8:38 pm

    Amy, you should google “Marty Biron” and “tape”. He uses a fancy kind of clear tape and uses literally a whole roll for each leg. I once heard him talking about how he’d steal it from the trainer’s table when they were on away trips during juniors. That stuff is crazy expensive.

    I gotta say, I love the mental image of Marty sneaking around the room to get the tape – perhaps shoving down the back of his pants to smuggle it?

  22. 22 S.A.M. May 8, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    that’s funny about the clear tape, the ECHL teams all use it now. And did you know you could get fined for using inproperly colored tape? (at least you can in the E- weird, eh?)

    HeatherB, in relation to your comment, and the ones that followed, I have the panoramic photo the Sabres did this year of all the boys in various states of hockey undress standing/sitting/lounging against the boards- this photo was on the outside of HSBC this year, but on sale in the Sabres Store for only $5!! I bought it and it’s now framed and on my wall. And it is HOT. Smokin hot. :)

    hockey equipment is fun. Even funner/funnIer is listening to a minor league hockey player telling/showing an elementary school kid how to put it on. We used to do that at school assemblies when I worked for the Grizzlies. It was hilarious, and of course all the stuff was too big for the kids.

  23. 23 mara in pdx May 9, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    The special tape they use on their legs is called–wait for it–sock tape. (Catchy, no?) It’s almost the same feel as black electrical tape, maybe a little thinner–slightly stretchy, moderately sticky, and can be ripped by hand. It’s like $2-3 a roll, and that’s for us amateur peons buying it one roll at a time.

    The tape is less for holding the socks up (that’s what the garter or velcro shorts are for!) and more for holding the shin guards tight against the leg. Some people don’t mind them being a little loose and don’t use any tape.

    S.A.M., did the Sabres do a new panorama of the whole team for this season? I have the one they did in…uh, whatever Gaustad’s rookie year was. 2005-06, I guess.

  24. 24 blitzen May 10, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    For my 50th birthday this year my husband granted my wish to play hockey (i have never played). He rented a sheet of ice for a couple of hours and we went to Play it Again Sports for some used hockey gear. The whole kit ‘n kaboodle; helmut, body armor (they have special body armor for women), elbow pads, shin pads, pants, gloves, skates. We had to buy new socks and sticks. We already had the jerseys. I didn’t get a garter and my little black number (well, it was my birthday and we could have made it interesting), didn’t hold the socks so I used sock-tape only. Getting dressed was quite the ordeal – there’s an order to it all. I was really amazed with the shin pads – they are quite substandtial. And I had to get one over my knee brace to boot. No wonder they get into so many fights – with all that stuff you can feel pretty invincible.

    The result: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcsuMHPZFmE

  25. 25 S.A.M. May 12, 2008 at 12:30 am

    mara, they did do one for this year’s group, it was available in the Sabres Store.. don’t know if they still have ’em or not. It was a steal at $5 though!

  26. 26 Courtney S.F. May 12, 2008 at 12:50 am

    This is too funny. I know someone else has already mentioned this, but the shorts are called breezers. I now this because one of the only things I wanted for Christmas when I was 8 was my very own pair of hockey breezers (of course I got them, thanks mom!). Back in the 80’s there was a brief period where hockey players wore full length breezers (like pants/overalls) and they were called Cooperalls. For some reason, they didn’t catch on and everyone went back to the shorts which is something I’ve never understood. If I remember correctly, the hockey players in my household were quite happy with the Cooperall phenomenon.

  27. 27 Katebits May 12, 2008 at 3:45 am

    Blitzen! I don’t know how I managed to overlook your comment until now! Your video is adorable! I really want to try it now. You’re a natural! :P

    Courtney, I just laughed for ten minutes imagining you in hockey pants. I saw an onld hockey clip the other day where the players were wearing full length pants and it looked so weird….but honestly, pants make a lot more sense than shorts with huge socks which require garter belts.

  28. 28 Hockey kid November 10, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    I play hockey and these are the pads we use:

    Hockey pants- they aren’t every stretchy. But they don’t rip.
    Shin guards- pads on your shins…
    Shoulder/chest pad- sort of a…padded hockey shirt.
    Elbo pads- go on your Elbos…obviously..
    Neck guard-goes around your neck like a thick thick tight necklace.
    Of course skates and a helmet and gloves and a stick.
    Then socks that go over your shin pads, and
    a jersey and that pretty much it….yeah. I play hockey so i would knowww


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