Do NHL Players Wear Girdles or Hockey Pants? | LeoVegas

Do NHL Players Wear Girdles?

Girdles are one of two types of lower-body protective gear that NHL players and hockey players of all levels can choose to wear. The design of girdles, compared to hockey shorts, offers a tighter fit, making them a popular choice among NHL players. This snug fit has led many modern players to prefer girdles over traditional hockey shorts. So, what exactly is a girdle in hockey, and how do they differ from hockey shorts?

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What is a Girdle in Hockey?

A girdle is the modern form of a traditional piece of hockey gear that offers a different fit and degree of comfort compared to hockey pants. Worn to protect a player’s waist, lower back, groin, and thighs, girdles are an alternative for those who aren't fans of hockey pants.

Definition and Purpose of a Girdle in Hockey

A hockey girdle is defined as a piece of lower-body protective gear that features compressive material beneath the padding. It’s worn on the player’s waist to offer protection from just above the knees up to around the kidneys and lower back. Girdles are an alternate option to hockey pants, and skaters must wear at least one of these when playing on the ice.

Description of a Hockey Girdle

A hockey girdle looks quite similar to a pair of hockey shorts and is worn in a similar manner. The belt is secured around the waist, with ample padding along the sides and lower back. Importantly, the lower layer of a hockey girdle is essentially a layer of compression pants, providing a much tighter fit.

The required padding is layered on top of this compression layer and sewn in as sections that allow for optimal mobility while skating. Usually, it’s tough to tell if a player is wearing a hockey girdle because they also need to wear a shell – a light fabric pair of nylon shorts that cover the girdle in the team’s colours and insignia.

Primary Functions: Protection and Mobility

The aim of the hockey girdle is to offer the same level of protection as hockey pants while enhancing mobility for players who struggle with the looseness of traditional pants (think briefs versus boxers). With a compression layer underneath, the gear is much more form-fitting, may come with a built-in cup, and is less likely to require suspenders to keep up – unlike many hockey pants. Some NHL players wear girdles because the tight fit makes them feel lighter and less constricted.

Components of a Girdle

While a hockey girdle is a single piece of equipment, it comprises several elements that ensure a tight, comfortable fit and provide ample protection on the ice.

Padding and Protection Areas

Regardless of what game you’ve got your hockey bets, you’ll see all of the players wearing protective gear from head to toe because the sport is so inherently high-speed, high-impact, and dangerous. A hockey girdle features noticeable padding over the compression fit, with padding wrapping around the lower thighs and hips, and additional padding for the seat. All girdles provide protective material from the waist down, and many also include padding and a built-in cup. Above the waist, there are three more sections of padding designed to protect the lower back and sides.

Material and Design Specifics

Across the leading brands for hockey pants and hockey girdles, such as Warrior, CCM, and Bauer, the exact materials, composition of those materials, and the designs will vary slightly. Generally, you’ll find that the whole girdle is padded with foam and plastic, the compression material is a breathable fabric like Polygiene, and the design covers from just above the knees to the waist, with side and lower-back pads attached.

Girdles vs Hockey Pants: Understanding the Difference

The big question for players is whether they prefer to wear a hockey girdle or hockey pants. Both options provide ample protection with the right fit, so the choice essentially comes down to a preference for a tight or loose fit.

Design and Structure

With hockey pants, the only tight-fitting area is around the waist. There are also side and lower-back pads, but below the belt, it’s loose and padded shorts that cover the thighs. Due to this, some players opt to use suspenders to keep their hockey pants in place.

Girdles are very similar in their structure, but they’re tight all over, being built around compression material that keeps the whole piece of gear on the body. That said, the compression fit doesn’t always guarantee that the gear will stay in the exact same place, so mid-game adjustments may be required.

Protection Levels

Both girdles and hockey pants cover the player from just above the knees up to the waist, with three attached pads for lower-back and kidney protection. Both offer plenty of protection in all situations of the game, but hockey pants tend to require additional gear to ensure groin protection. Either way, if you get checked on the open ice and end up sliding, both girdles and pants will protect your lower body from scuffs, grazes, or cuts while also providing warmth.

Player Preferences

In the 2024 Stanley Cup Finals, we saw the check-happy Florida Panthers lead in the hockey odds against the Edmonton Oilers, with the trademark of the team’s success being their aptitude for body checks.

When laying down body checks, a girdle might be the preferred choice due to its tight fit and all-in-one design, allowing for less restricted charges in a straight line. So, it would work well for defensemen and power forwards.

For the more skillful forwards who need to shift laterally, evade defensemen, and skate at tremendous speeds, hockey pants are often preferred. Being loose, there’s a greater sense of maneuverability and range for their legs, particularly when deking and needing to shift horizontally.

Why Some NHL Players Prefer Girdles

For one skater, having tight-fitting gear will make them feel more mobile, but for another, having a bit more room between the legs and protective gear offers the same feeling of increased mobility.

Skating Mobility

Above all else, skaters want to feel mobile despite having to wear layers of protective gear. There are arguments for both hockey pants and hockey girdles offering better mobility, flexibility, an enhanced range of motion, and greater maneuverability, but overall, it basically comes down to a preference of tight or loose-fitting gear.

Custom Fit Gear

Essential to all types of gear is that it’s custom-made to suit the player’s body. With the build of a girdle, some padding areas could even be customized to suit the player. Players with particularly muscular legs may find hockey pants too tight-fitting but lacking the additional benefits of a girdle, leading them to opt for a girdle regardless.

Comfort While Competing

It’s important to feel comfortable in hockey gear, as games run at least 60 minutes with deep overtime always a possibility. Many players thus opt for loose-fitting pants and suspenders to allow for more airflow. That being said, Evgeny Kuznetsov famously wears Nike Bauer’s 2008 Supreme One90 Girdle because he perceives it as being way looser than pants, which he says, “just feels better.”

Why Some NHL Players Avoid Girdles

Girdles over pants is a preference choice in most cases, and there are plenty of reasons why a player would opt for hockey pants over a hockey girdle.

Sticking to the Classic Gear

Hockey pants are the traditional choice, being tried and trusted throughout decades of NHL play. The glut of former Conn Smythe Trophy winners and those in contention in the outright odds this year wear hockey pants and likely have done so since their younger playing days.

Concerns and Preferences

Many who are used to hockey shorts are worried about the perceived drawbacks, like an assumed restriction of mobility when wearing tighter gear. Some also see the stitching of the pad areas on the girdle as being less protective than cover-all pants. And of course, it can be said that the girdle build just simply doesn’t suit some body types.

Team Policy

Team policy and the enforced rules of the coaching team will also have their say. Some coaches are very anti-girdle, perceiving it as being too restrictive. Teams may prefer for players to wear branded pants rather than a branded shell that can easily peel back.

Adoption Rate of Girdles in the NHL

It’s difficult to gauge just how many players in the NHL sport a hockey girdle. Gear Geek tracks players who wear the three major brands of hockey pants, but not girdles. At the time of writing, the site recorded over 300 players using Bauer pants, some 400 using CCM pants, and 70-odd in Warrior pants, including Finals competitors Leon Draisaitl, Darnell Nurse, and Aaron Ekblad. At any given time during the regular season, there are some 672 active skaters in the NHL, so there’s a good chance that some girdles have been generalized as pants.


Do most NHL players wear pants or girdles?

The general consensus is that both pants and girdles are worn by NHL players, but the split between the two isn’t tracked or exactly known.

Do you need a hockey girdle?

You don’t need a hockey girdle to play the sport, but you do need to wear either hockey pants or a hockey girdle when on the ice. Some prefer the tight fit of a girdle over the looseness of pants, so if that’s your preference, you need a hockey girdle.

Do NHL players wear compression pants?

If an NHL player wears a girdle instead of hockey pants, they are essentially wearing compression pants. The inside layer of the girdle features compression materials that keep the gear tight to the player while incorporating padding that bulges around the compression zones. Players wearing hockey pants often wear compression pants underneath for added comfort and support.

What do hockey players wear under their pants?

Under hockey shorts, players will typically wear compression shorts, jock shorts, or both. Depending on the sex, players will also wear an athletic cup and a garter belt, if required, or a pelvic protector.

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