There isn’t a more important piece of equipment than your helmet.
Your head needs to be protected when you’re on the ice.
Ice hockey is the fastest team sport in the world… which means there’s plenty of room for injury.
So… you’ve heard that hockey helmets expire. Strange, right?
So, why do hockey helmets expire? Can you use an expired helmet? Can you restore them? What about kids’ helmets?
In this article, we’ll show exactly why hockey helmets expire and why it’s crucial you ensure you don’t use an expired helmet while playing.
Here’s Why Hockey Helmets Expire:
In hockey, you’re allowed 6 players on the ice at any time (5 players and 1 goalie). When a team is down a goal in the last minutes of the game, coaches will “pull the goalie” in exchange for an extra player in a last-ditch effort to score.
Why Do Hockey Helmets Expire?
In Canada, hockey helmets don’t expire. But, in the United States, they do expire.
However, hockey helmets don’t expire the way old cheese or bread does. Hockey helmets have an expiration date set by certification and hockey safety organizations.
There are two different types of certification stickers that can be on hockey helmets depending on where you live.
In the USA, hockey helmets are certified by the HECC—short for Hockey Equipment Certification Council. They expire after 6.5 years.
In the States, hockey helmets are certified based on performance standards created by ASTM—the American Society for Testing and Materials.
In Canada, hockey helmets are certified by the CSA—short for the Canadian Standards Association. However, there isn’t an expiry date on Canadian-certified helmets.
Nevertheless, hockey helmets in Canada should still be replaced or reconditioned around the 6-7 year mark.
Do Kids Hockey Helmets Expire?
Yes, kids hockey helmets expire if you live in the US.
The Hockey Equipment Certification Council (HECC) changed the limit from 5 years to 6.5 years recently.
This expiry date isn’t set as the lifespan of the helmet. Rather, this expiry date is for anyone playing under USA Hockey’s jurisdiction. In other words, if your son or daughter is playing hockey for their city team, they will have to abide by the expiration date on the helmet.
However, if your kid is practicing at home or playing a game of pond hockey in the winter, they can certainly use an expired helmet. You should just be aware that older helmets may not be the safest as certain parts do require upgrading or reconditioning over time as the helmet breaks down.
Can You Use an Expired Hockey Helmet?
So, can you use an expired helmet?
Well, the answer is yes and no depending on your situation.
If you’re in the United States, you can not use an expired helmet if you’re playing under the jurisdiction of USA Hockey.
However, if you’re playing pond hockey, drop in hockey at your local rink, or stick and puck, then you can use an expired helmet. Under any official youth league games, you will be required to play with a properly certified and legal helmet.
In Canada, there are no rules on helmet expiration dates. Canada’s governing certification body—the CSA—will certify helmets to be used during organized hockey. However, they don’t come with an expiration date, meaning you can use them essentially forever. But, most people will replace their helmet every 6-7 years or so.
How Do You Know When a Hockey Helmet Is Expired?
Hockey helmets in Canada don’t expire. But, hockey helmets in the USA do expire. You need to ensure your helmet isn’t expired if you play organized hockey under USA Hockey.
In order to find out if your helmet is expired, you’ll have to check your helmet.
Look on the back of your helmet for the HECC sticker. It’s a white sticker with red, blue, and black text.
The HECC sticker will show an expiry date “Valid Until End of Month Year”.
In order to play under USA hockey, your helmet must be used before the expiry date… and you also need to make sure it’s in good condition. If there are any parts broken or missing, you may not be able to play.
How Long Should a Hockey Helmet Last?
Most hockey helmets will last up to 6-7 years. HECC expiries are 6.5 years in the US.
However, helmets can typically still be used outside USA Hockey for a few years after that if you maintain your helmet properly.
There are a few factors that could impact the lifespan of your hockey helmet, including:
- Ongoing impacts to the helmet
- Certification stickers being damaged or removed
- Ear pieces being removed
- Hardware wear and tear
- Dents or cracks
- Foam padding breaking down
- Helmet not fitting properly
You should also maintain your visor or face shield, especially if it’s accumulating scratches. It’s crucial to keep your helmet maintained which includes keeping your certification sticker in place and intact.
How Long Are CCM Helmets Good For?
CCM Helmets can be used for many years, even beyond the 6.5 year expiry set by the HECC in the US.
Most can be used for upwards of 10 years if maintained properly.
How Long Are Bauer Helmets Good For?
Similar to CCM helmets, Bauer helmets can often be used for 10 or so years if taken care of over the years.
However, like any other helmet, they expire under USA Hockey after 6.5 years.
When Should You Replace a Hockey Helmet?
Your hockey helmet will need to be replaced every now and then. Here are a few reasons you’ll need to replace your helmet:
- If your certification sticker has expired (US only)
- If there is visible damage impacting the protection of your head
- If it doesn’t firmly fit your head anymore
- If the foam is cracked or missing
You should make an effort to maintain your helmet. If you’re ever unsure, make sure to bring it into your local hockey repair shop to get an expert to take a look.
Do Hockey Goalie Helmets Expire?
Yes, hockey goalie helmets expire just the same as regular helmets in the US.
They will receive a certification sticker from the HECC with an expiration date of 6.5 years. Make sure you check the back of your goalie helmet for your HECC expiry date.
Can You Recertify a Hockey Helmet?
Yes, you can get your hockey helmet recertified in most cases.
However, you can’t recertify it yourself or take it to just any local hockey shop.
You’ll need to have a NOCSAE licensed company recertify your helmet. Every NAERA member is licensed so you can take your helmet there.
How Often Should Hockey Helmets Be Reconditioned?
You should recondition your helmet before 6.5 years (before it expires). But you should always keep an eye on the state of your helmet to ensure it is safe and fits properly.
Reconditioning typically involves having an expert inspect and repair your helmet to recertify it.
This can only be done for US citizens by a NAERA licensed member.
How Much Does it Cost to Recondition a Helmet?
Reconditioning or recertifying a hockey helmet can cost anywhere from $40-$90, depending on how much work needs to be done to your helmet. It also depends on the NAERA reconditioner who services your helmet.
In many cases, it may make more sense to just buy a brand new helmet than recondition it.
What Is a CSA Approved Hockey Helmet?
In Canada, the governing body of hockey equipment certification is the CSA which is short for Canadian Standards Association.
Every hockey helmet sold in Canada has to be certified by the CSA in order to be safety-approved.
This CSA sticker will be round with blue and red placed on the back of the helmet. Some newer helmets will have the sticker placed on the inside of the plastic.
Do CSA Approved Helmets Expire?
In Canada, hockey helmets must be certified by the CSA in order to be sold.
However, Canadian helmets don’t expire. You can use your helmet in Canada forever as long as it is in working condition. Keep in mind that if you’re in the States, your helmet (certified by the HECC) expires after 6.5 years.
What Are Hockey Helmets Made Of?
Hockey helmets have come a long way since they were first introduced in the 20th century.
Modern helmets are made of a material called vinyl nitrate. This is a high-impact resistant plastic that disperses force at the point of contact.
Hockey helmet liners are made of a foam padding that’s typically adjustable for a better fit. This foam padding is made from either expanded polypropylene (EPP) foam or vinyl nitrile foam.
This foam padding will dissipate or dampen any further force of impact that the vinyl nitrate exterior doesn’t.
What’s the Best Way to Dispose of or Retire an Old Helmet?
Is it time to retire your hockey helmet? Maybe the certification expired or it’s just experienced too much wear and tear to use?
If you’re ready to dispose of your helmet, here are a few things you can do:
- Remove the foam lining from the helmet’s interior
- Crumble up this foam to be used for packing material
- Cut the helmet’s straps off and dispose of them in your trash can
- Remove all the hardware (ear loops, j-clips, screws, t-nuts) and keep them in your hockey bag in case you or a teammate needs a replacement part
Remember, just because your helmet is expired according to the HECC, doesn’t mean you have to dispose of it. You can still continue to use it outside USA hockey. This means any street hockey, pond hockey, or pick-up games at your local rink are fair game for the helmet (as long as it’s still safe and comfortable).
Want more answers to the most common hockey questions? Be sure to check out our other popular articles: Why Is Fighting Allowed in Hockey, Who Is the Best Hockey Player in 2022? (Top 10 Ranked), and What Are the Top 10 Ice Hockey Countries?