Imagine that you're watching a hockey game. You notice a player with amazing skill and incredible speed, who seems to dominate the ice. Unfortunately, the player doesn't seem to have the right equipment. The shoulder pads are too wide and loose, the shin pads are so bulky that they impede the player's movements, and the hockey stick seems a bit too thick for the player's small yet capable hands.
The player you're watching is a young girl, and she's facing the challenges that female hockey players encounter every day.
[Girls from the Aurora Panthers participating in the STÄRK Hockey MFG R&D Session held at the Toronto Leaside Girls Hockey Tournament. - 2018]
In an effort to reach all players and cover the larger share of the market with the least amount of effort, hockey equipment makers and retailers have left out an important segment of the hockey player market— young girls and adult women. Often, these players have to use equipment that is too big, boxy, and bulky, or equipment that's been designed for junior male players. Discover how the modern hockey market is failing its female players.
- No Accounting for Different Growth Rates
Besides the obvious differences in female physiology, girls develop and grow at different rates than boys. For example, most women reach their maximum hand length by age 13, while boys of the same age are only at 88% of their final hand length. Girls between the ages of 11 and 13 are typically taller yet narrower than their male counterparts.
Any line of hockey equipment created for girls and women needs to take growth rate differences into account. Right now, girls are forced to hunt through equipment designed for young male players, hoping to find pieces that are at least usable, if not ideal.
- No Hockey Sticks for Girls
Girls and women can be incredibly strong, bold, and clever, with plenty of potential to serve up an amazing game on the ice. However, there are undeniable physical differences between most females and males. According to our studies, young girls feel that hockey sticks are not well adapted to their strength and hand size. What they need is a proper length stick with the right amount of flex. Eliminating some of the rigidity and making the shaft circumference smaller can help girls achieve better stick control and more power.
- Misfit Women's Glove Sizes
When a woman or girl tries to select hockey gloves, she often has to settle for an imperfect fit. It's nearly impossible for a female player to find sturdy gloves that are an ideal fit in width and length. One player we interviewed said, "We would like gloves that fit our hands better but also protect as well as boys' SR gloves, as we currently use junior gloves." It's not too much to ask for quality hand protection in the correct size!
- More Ill-Fitting Equipment
The story is the same across the board for female player equipment. Girls and women are looking for shoulder pads and chest protectors that are narrower and better shaped for their form. Shin pads need to be narrower and less bulky, but still with sufficient length. Pants should be better fitting through the hips and thighs, while still offering more length than the junior-sized pants that many female players are currently forced to wear. Women need medium-sized elbow pads, and they need lightweight hockey bags with more interior pockets for personal items.
- A Lack of Marketing
When was the last time you saw an ad aimed towards young girls or women who play hockey? Despite the fact that they're a smaller demographic than the males, these players deserve to know more about the products available to them. According to research, 78% of young girls find it difficult to find what they are looking for when they're shopping for hockey equipment— and that problem stems from a lack of targeted marketing, product availability and variety, and in-store presence to help with selection.
STÄRK Hockey wants to see all of this change. We have a vision for affordable hockey gear—not over-designed or over-marketed, but offered as a streamlined, high-quality alternative to the current products. We plan to create a line of female-specific hockey equipment, with an emphasis on the right fit and excellent performance. With top-of-the-line designers, suppliers, and distribution partners, we're well on the way to achieving that goal.
Remember, most girls rely on their local retailers to have the product assortment and expertise to properly outfit them for upcoming games. If you don't have the right hockey equipment for young female players, consider making a change this year. To find out how you can join with us to make hockey equipment practical and affordable for everyone, get in touch with us here on Facebook. We'll be happy to share our collected data, our designs, and more information about partnership opportunities.