In the Crease: Finding the right neck protection

Vaughn Goalie Neck VPC

Vaughn Goalie Neck VPC

One piece of a goaltender’s set of equipment can be overlooked is the type of neck and collar protection they choose to utilize. There are a host of products that can be used by goaltenders and finding the right combination will not only ensure safety but effectiveness as well.

Since goaltending is a position in which you’re exposed to puck battles, skates and sticks in a confined area, the chances are higher that an errant piece of equipment will find a way to hit you. Not to mention the fact that your opponent is slinging a frozen rubber disc at you for three periods.

There are two primary options when it comes to neck protection for a goaltender; a Lexan dangler or a traditional neck guard. Whether using one of these options, or both, it is important that a goalie finds a comfortable option that maximizes protection.

The Lexan throat guard really began to gain popularity as more NHL goaltenders began using them in the 1990s. The dangler hangs off a goaltender’s helmet and serves to protect from direct or deflected pucks and sticks. When worn properly it fills the space between the end of your helmet and the top of your chest protector.

One drawback that goalies find with the dangler is that it can be difficult to adapt to. While the protection it provides is unparalleled, it can be clumsy and even fog up at times. Of course, for every goalie who is uncomfortable wearing it, there are three who can’t play without it.

Personally, I was never able to find a comfort level with the dangler. Even after a deflected puck caught me under the chin, my play suffered after I added the dangler because I couldn’t find the proper fit. My issue, like many others, was finding the right length to hang the dangler from my mask to ensure full protection and minimal interference with my chest pad. Making sure that your dangler is at the proper height as to not catch on your jersey or chest pad is vital because the protection it offers will come at a steep price should it affect your play.

The silver lining here is that a dangler is 100% adjustable and removable. This isn’t like any other piece of equipment that offers limited adjustments that need to be adapted to. Some goalies wear it loose so that it moves freely when they look down or to the side; whereas others tie it tight to their mask so the two move as one unit while extending their neck protection. It is an accessory that can simply be removed if it bothers you too much.

Great Skate carries models from Bauer and Reebok and neither product is cost prohibitive to the point that it isn’t worth purchasing to at least test out to see what kind of comfort level you have.

The second option that all goalies have for neck protection is the collar throat guard. This is worn around your neck and is specifically designed to prevent cuts from skates, sticks or pucks. Collar neck guards are designed to fit comfortably around your neck while allowing for maximum mobility. All models are Velcro adjustable and offer full neck and extended collarbone protection.

These specifically keep you from suffering dangerous cuts from skates or sticks and also offer impressive protection from direct puck impacts as well. However, this isn’t as effective as a dangler when protecting from direct or deflected shots.

Vaughn’s VPC neck guard is perhaps the most popular at the NHL level and is barely noticeable when worn on the ice. It features a low profile design that doesn’t get caught up with the chest protector while still offering full protection. This is the model I choose to use and I would never go on the ice without it. The throat and collar protection are phenomenal and I don’t even realize it is on when I’m playing.

Reebok has also begun to manufacture a number of impressive models in this line. Their TCRBK has a very similar construction to the Vaughn model and offers full neck and clavicle protection. They have also developed a larger option that has additional clavicle protection. The Reebok TCPro is built with beefed up shoulder and collarbone padding to go along with the traditional neck guard. Reebok also introduced the padded goal shirt recently that basically has their traditional neck and collarbone protection built into a full base-layer long sleeve shirt. This is a new product designed to maximize protection and comfort by eliminating the need for an additional piece of equipment under your chest pad.

All goalies should use at least one of the Lexan dangler or collar neck guards. Playing a position that can expose a player to dangerous situations, ensuring your safety is vitally important. Trying on the different neck guards sold by Great Skate will give you an idea of what fits you best and using practice time to find the right comfort level with your collar guard and/or dangler is the best way to figure out how you feel about each of these.

After a few ice times trying each out, you’ll certainly know what works best and you can begin using that set up in each game moving forward.