Do Ice Hockey Players Wear Cups? (Solved!)


Having played ice hockey for several years, I can confidently say that you need to wear a cup!

Players of all levels in ice hockey wear a cup. This includes both amateurs and professionals, players of all ages, and also players of different genders.

There is always the risk of being struck in the genital region by either the ball, a stick, or an impact with another player.

Ice hockey is a high-contact, high-intensity game, and various collisions are all part of its make-up.

In this post, I’ll look at exactly why you must wear a cup in hockey, the type of cup to buy, and also some other alternatives to protect this key part of your body!

Ice hockey players wearing cups
Hockey is a game of high-intensity, and high-level impacts

What Is A Protective Cup?

Protection of your reproductive organs while playing a hard-hitting game is essential. These organs are highly sensitive and are prone to long-lasting effects if injured. (source). 

For an ice hockey match, it is highly recommended that the male players wear padded, hard-on-the-outside shorts to protect their groin area. 

Why Ice Hockey? 

The game of hockey is extremely intense. The players are so focused on winning that they tend to use their game equipment- hockey stick and skates- as weapons to hurt the opponent team members!

It’s just the way things are, so go in as protected as you can. The most impacts in hockey can all result in a strike to the genital region. Here is a table of the most common types of impacts in hockey, and the likelihood of an injury in the abdominal area during each of these:

ImpactLikelihood Of Injury To Groin Area
High-impact contact with othersHigh
Rigid boards contactLow
Pucks moving at high speedHigh
Skate bladesMedium
Goal postsLow
Hockey sticksHigh

How Is The Cup-Shaped? 

Also known as the athlete’s cup, it is specially designed for the players to offer protection from serious groin injuries.

This equipment has been used for ages, but with the latest developments, it has become more ergonomic and comfortable to wear. Luckily, this has resulted in an increase in the number of players using protective cups today.

Previously made out of steel, the cup is now available in soft plastic that is lightweight and does the job pretty well. These cups act as shock diffusers and protect the groin area for male ice hockey players.

Easy to wash and maintain, there are some that believe these cups should be made compulsory for all the players. 

Are There Different Types of Protective Equipment Available?

Yes, there are different options for the players to choose their protective gear based on their comfort and convenience. Between traditional hockey pants and a girdle, let’s take a look at the best options:

Traditional Hockey Pants

Traditional hockey pants are what you see in hockey matches from a decade or two ago. These pants are loose on the bottom and fit from the waist.

The ones used previously were not padded, and so had a lot of free space for the player to move around.

Back in the day, they weren’t customized according to the fitting of each player, so had to be tightened up using suspenders. 

With the recent upgrades in equipment, and as newer companies have started making them, the players now have a wide range of options available.

With more or less padding, placement of the cup, and length, all can be customized now according to the measurements of the player. 

Hockey Girdles 

As I have been an ice hockey player myself, I have seen players wear girdles. And just like you’re wondering right now, I also wondered how it was different than a traditional padded short used with a cup.

One day I found the answer!

Girdles are a form of protective equipment, especially used by male ice hockey players to protect their groin area from serious injuries.

As a viewer, you might not know what the player is wearing, whether the traditional short or a girdle, but as a player, you should know.

Girdles are highly padded, compressed shorts with a built-in athlete cup that are designed to fit the person perfectly. 

As they are extremely fitted in nature, they need to be covered up with a shell. The shell isn’t something hardcore, but a soft nylon short or pants that are very lightweight and thin. The shell is worn over the girdle to cover it. 

Hockey players collide
Collisions with opponents are common in hockey

Which One Is Better? 

Well, there is no right or wrong equipment.

From a distance, you might not even notice any difference between the two, and so choosing to wear a girdle or traditional shorts comes down to personal choice.

Players that feel comfortable wearing body-fit shorts prefer wearing a girdle, while the ones who feel uncomfortable in fitted shorts, can opt for traditional ice hockey shorts or pants with an additional accessory: the athlete’s cup. 

Which One Do NHL Players Use? 

The national hockey team players have been in the game for a long time and are more comfortable in using the traditional pants as they give them the freedom to move.

However, girdles are gaining popularity; with each new product version that is launched, comfort is given utmost priority. Many professional and elite players are now considering wearing protective girdles while playing their games. 

Even though there is no law for wearing a girdle, in my view, there should be. Playing the game should not be dangerous or hazardous for the players, rather a healthy competitive experience. 

Is The Protective Gear Required For Female Players? 

As important as the protective gear is for the male players, it is equally important for the females to protect their bodies as well.

Apart from the basic equipment such as helmets, kneecaps, and more, wearing a girdle for men and a Jill for women is needed. 

To protect the pelvic region of female players, it is quite necessary to wear a Jill that is designed just for the purpose. Most female players do not prefer to, but as per my research, wearing a pelvic protector helps in keeping the small bones in that area safe from shots and sticks.

Jill is a very useful product as it stays in place and doesn’t cause irritation to mess with the performance. However, because it isn’t used much, and not popular, the players fail to find a wide collection. 

Many female ice hockey players prefer to just wear ice hockey pants that don’t offer much protection. The hockey pants that were discussed above, are usually unisex.

However, little consideration is given to the delicate features of women, hence most of them have to opt for teenage hockey pants. 

How Do Cups Improve the Performance of Ice Hockey Players? 

An ice hockey game has the tendency to turn into an extremely violent tournament. Ice hockey is associated with many potential dangers because of contact between players or with stick, puck, skate blades, boards or goal posts (source). 

For the players to protect themselves they are supposed to wear helmets, gloves, kneecaps, and elbow caps. However, this equipment doesn’t protect the reproductive organs of both male and female players. 

Lately, the use of girdle, padded shorts, and pants have been introduced and is increasing in popularity amongst male NHL players. Jills on the other hand are introduced to protect the delicate reproductive organs of the female players. 

With these protective gears, the chances of getting seriously hurt in the groin and pelvic regions in both genders respectively are lowered. This lowered rate also has a positive impact on the player’s performance.

If your question is how they’re related, well, that is because once the players don’t have to worry about getting hurt and ending up in a stretcher to the hospital, they will be more focused on giving their best to the game. With more concentration on their performance, they will be able to more efficient and vigilant in the game, ending up performing much better out in the arena. 

The protective gear should be made compulsory for all the players involved regardless of their gender.

With a variety of options available, the players should definitely wear a cup with the traditional pants or a girdle for protection. It is better to opt for prevention than to deal with serious injuries and their consequences.

Table of information: 

Youtube video link: https://youtu.be/POuzYfcQjmU 

Article link: 

  1. Tyler, T. F., Nicholas, S. J., Campbell, R. J., Donellan, S., & McHugh, M. P. (2002). The effectiveness of a preseason exercise program to prevent adductor muscle strains in professional ice hockey players. The American journal of sports medicine, 30(5), 680-683. https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.894.4412&rep=rep1&type=pdf 
  2. Tegner, Y., & Lorentzon, R. (1991). Ice hockey injuries: incidence, nature and causes. British journal of sports medicine, 25(2), 87-89.

Jay Speakman

Jay has been a lover and player of many sports all his life, particularly hockey, lacrosse, martial arts, and racket sports. He works as a personal trainer, and writes for many sites about fitness and health. You can find out more about Jay at https://sportscentaur.com/about-jay-speakman/

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