By Jack, Reboot Hockey
All of my Honest Hockey Reviews on Protective equipment are going to be short, sweet, and to the point. I think anyone interested enough to read a Review on Hockey Equipment knows what to look for in Elbow/Shin/Shoulder Pads.
While most players are beyond finicky when it comes to skates, sticks, and possibly gloves/helmets, many of these same players don’t have major preferences when it comes to hockey pants, shoulder pads, elbow pads, and shin guards. Many times, comfort takes precedence over protection, as many veteran players will often squeeze years or even decades out of a particular piece of Protective gear.
As an older gentleman I play pickup hockey with pointed out, “When was the last time you saw 20+ (years) player buy new shoulder pads?”
To wit, here is the photo of the “Protective” gear I ordinarily wear for Adult League, now buffered by the Easton Pro Shins:
Cooper (Google it) Shoulder Pads, $20 Nike/Bauer Elbows, a CCM shell sans girdle, and of course the Easton Pros.
That lot is pretty laughable. I actually wore those same Cooper shoulder pads when I played in college, as I was more of a “cherry-picker” than a “shot-blocker”. But I digress.
Anyway, like many long-time players, I have never put a premium on purchasing expensive Protective gear. Almost of my disposable income went into (and continues to go into) skates, sticks, and gloves. No matter how hard the manufacturers try, selling a hockey player on the sexiness of a new set of elbow pads mostly remains a major chore.
I picked up a pair of Easton Pro Series Shin Guards only because they cost me less than a pair of movie tickets. I was perfectly content playing in a pair of Sher-Wood 5030 Traditional Shins, as I thought they were perfectly-acceptable value at $30 retail. It never occurred to me that there would be any major benefit to investing more in Shins/Elbows/Shoulders as an Adult Leaguer.
I was wrong. The Easton Pro Series Shin Guards made me a believer in the benefits of buyer better Protective, even if you’re only an A-League bender like myself. Read on and I’ll explain.
Economy Line to Front Line
I had worn a pair of Reebok 8K Shins from just after college until late 2012, at which point the liners had basically disintegrated. I had worn Jofa Shins in the years prior, so I had been, unknowingly, wearing professional-quality Shin Guards for most of my youth. I had taken the benefits of high-grade Shins for granted, as I had always blindly purchased Jofa Shins because that’s what I had seen Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Peter Forsberg, et al. wearing.
Figuring, “I’m just a decaying Garage Leaguer at this point, why bother investing heavily in new Shins?”, I picked up the Sher-Wood 5030 Traditionals. To their credit, it’s hard to knock the value the 5030 Traditionals provide, as I believe they are by far the best Shins you can buy at the $30 price-point.
However, the reality is that I am experienced enough that lower-end gear can and does hinder my play. This was something I long ago recognized with Skates and Sticks, but had not given much thought to regarding Protective gear. I will tear through a mid-range Stick or pair of Skates in short order simply because I am bigger and stronger than most of the people intermediate-level gear is made for. The same principle, it turns out, applies to Protective equipment.
Anyway, I was able to snag a pair of Easton Pro Series Shins for about the cost of dinner for two at Arby’s. Don’t ask me how I got them at that price. I had purchased them on a lark with the full intention of immediately reselling them.
The plan was to try them on once or twice in the interest of writing an Honest Hockey review. However, after wearing them once, I fell in love. My 5030 Traditionals ended up in my spare equipment bag, and my Easton Pro Series Shins are my favorite equipment purchase to-date in 2014.
Benefits of High-End Protective
- Better Fit = Better Play
The reality is that Economy and even Intermediate level equipment is cut like department-store denim jeans: One Size Fits Most. While my 5030 Traditionals fit “fine”, I would be lying if I said they fit “great”. To use the Jeans analogy, wearing Economy/Intermediate protective is like wearing Slim Straight jeans when you have Hockey Ass and need custom tailoring.
The best thing I can say about my Easton Pro Series Shins is that the put my skating form back into proper alignment. I did not realize how uncomfortably-upright the 5030 Traditionals kept me until I wore the Easton Pros. The Pro Series Shins simply contoured to the anatomy of my lower leg better, which made my skating noticeably smoother.
The fit top-to-bottom on the Easton Pros is superb, as you would expect from a $99.99 retail Shin Guard. The removable liners are comfortable, snug, and non-abrasive. The calf wrap on the Easton Pros provides a taut fit during play. Unlike most Economy/Intermediate-level Shins, the Easton Pros articulate at the knee, which again allows the player to move more naturally.
Aside from the improvement in my skating stride, the fact that I never have to adjust, or even think about, my Shins while wearing them is the best thing I can say about them.
- Better Protection/Injury Insurance (DUH)
It goes without saying that if I so inclined, the Easton Pro Shins would help a ton with shot-blocking. As noted previously, I am a Pond Hockey guy, so I block shots with the frequency of the Solar Equinox. However, in the interest of science, I did get in front of a few slappers recently. I can report that I felt absolutely fine after blocking three or four A-League bombs, although don’t expect me to turn into a modern-day Mike Ramsey.
I am always on people who play more than 1-2 times per week to upgrade to a higher-end pair of gloves, as I believe the jump in price from a $30 pair to a $70 pair is a huge upgrade in fit and quality. Considering how much time most hockey players spend on the ice, the extra $40 invested against an expected usage of about one year seems like a no-brainer investment to me.
My experience with the Easton Pro Shins has brought me to around to this line of thinking on Protective. I am on the ice a minimum of 4-5 times per week, and I generally wear Protective gear that looks like it belongs to a member of District 5. Without my jersey and socks on, I look like a Hockey-playing hobo.
Again, you’re going to probably get a calendar year, at minimum, out of a quality piece of Protective equipment. If you’re an A-League warrior and you’re on the ice with any regularity, going up a tier or two to a pair of shins like the Easton Pros is money well spent, in my view.
The other consideration is the injuries that you avoid incurring with the use of better Protective gear. Like I wrote above, I am no shot-blocking specialist, but I do crash-and-bang about as much as A-League will let me. If moving up from a $30 economy-level Shin to a $100 Pro-level Shin spares me even one injury, it’s a tremendous investment.
Basis of Comparison
To be fair, I have not invested much at all in Protective within the last several years. It’s very possible I would have written the exact same things about Shin Guards such as the CCM CL Shins or Reebok 18K Shins if I had gotten into them first.
But as I wrote above, the Easton Pro Shins are also my favorite equipment purchase of 2014. The fact that I am making a major jump from an Economy-line pair of Shins such as 5030 Traditionals should not diminish the value that Pro-level Shins such as the Easton Pros provide.
Honestly, I couldn’t be happier with the Easton Pro Series Shin Guards, and their quality has me looking strongly at other Easton products that I had not previously considered. As far as Protective equipment goes, I don’t think that anyone can ask for much more than superb fit and protection, both of which the Easton Pro Shins provide. If a product is strong enough to encourage a buyer to try other products from the same line, it really has gone above and beyond.
I did not rate the Easton Pro Shins in the categories I generally include in Honest Hockey Reviews (Durability, Value, etc). After I Review more Protective gear and come up with a good, consistent system, I will edit this article to reflect those changes and include a more-thorough breakdown. In the mean time, take my word as a player that the Easton Pro Shins are a terrific product, even at their suggested retail of $99.99.
After my positive experience with the Easton Pro Shins, my next equipment purchase will likely be to pair them with the Easton Pro Elbow Pads. What I want more than anything out of Protective is a consistent fit and quality, and the Easton Pro Shins certainly provide that. They have made me enough of a believer to invest in their Elbows, and to consider products I had not previously (helmets, skates, etc) in the future.
If I can speak so strongly about the value that higher-end Protective provides, perhaps you should try an upper-level pair of Elbows or Shoulders for yourself. You may be stunned by how much you enjoy them.
HH Overall Rating: 9.5