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A Close Look at Hockey Helmet Earpieces

[Editor’s Note: Today we have a guest entry by Ben Van Mierlo, who’s going to give us a close look at a very small piece of hockey gear. Enjoy. ”” PL]

By Ben Van Mierlo

When I went to Uni Watch on June 2 — the day with the recent entry about the Penguins’ helmets — and saw the photo of Sidney Crosby with his head turned sideways, showing off his helmet earpiece [shown at right; click to enlarge], I thought to myself, “There it is! Finally, a full Uni Watch investigation into hockey helmet earpieces!” But that entry turned out to be about the Penguins’ helmet decals. So if there’s going to be an entry about earpieces, it appears that I’ll have to write it myself.

If you’re wondering what an earpiece is, take a look at this photo, which is what an off-the-shelf hockey helmet looks like [click to enlarge]:

See that clear protective piece beneath the Bauer logo on the side? That is the earpiece. I’ve been a diehard hockey fan and player for 30 years, and I’ve been obsessed with that little piece of the helmet for as long as I can remember.

As a minor hockey player, you aren’t allowed to remove the earpiece. But almost all of the pros (and a lot of beer leaguers) remove it. The commonly stated reason is, “I can hear better without it” (I can tell you from experience that the difference is minimal to non-existent), but it’s more like a rite of passage, like graduating from the full-face “bird cage” shield to the half-visor as you make it to a higher level of hockey.

When a player enters the pro ranks (NHL or AHL), they seem to have the option to remove the earpieces, and almost all of them go ahead and do so. If you look at pictures of NHL players, you’re hard pressed to find an ear piece in sight. But there are three players who I’ve always noticed as earpiece holdouts. They happen to be three of the better players in the league, and two of them are Penguins — Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Patrick Kane [for the first and third photos, you can click to enlarge]:

I don’t really have a nice wrap-up to this, and I’m not sure what it means, other than that if you want to be a top goal scorer in the NHL, wear earpieces.


Great stuff, and very much analogous to how minor league baseball players have to wear double-flapped helmets but can then go single-flapped when they reach the bigs. Big thanks to Ben for spotlighting this oft-overlooked uniform detail.

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NFL adopts “James Jones rule”: One of the odder developments during the last several games of the 2015 NFL season was Packers wideout James Jones’s habit of wearing a hoodie on the field. He said it was something he’d started doing in practice and that he’d just gotten comfortable with it. NFL officiating guru Mike Pereira quickly weighed in, explaining that the hoodie was legal because, hey, there was no rule against it.

Well, there is now. It’s not clear if this will stop Jones from wearing the hoodie during TV appearances.

Hoodies have also appeared on the baseball diamond lately. Several Red Sox players have worn them this season, including David Ortiz and Mookie Betts (that shot is from May 17 — barely three weeks ago!), and I believe players on a few other teams were wearing them during cold-weather games in April. Hey, there’s no rule against it. Yet.

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The Ticker
By Mike Chamernik

Baseball News: The Padres wore 1990s throwbacks yesterday and they didn’t appear to have the stripeless side panels. They also stuck with their usual matte batting helmets and just put a throwback decal on them. … Snoop Dogg wore an old Jake Peavy glove while throwing out the first pitch at that Padres game. Peavy last pitched for San Diego in 2009. … Albert Almora, a Cubs OF prospect who was called up a few days ago, will go JrOB. He didn’t in Spring Training or with the Double-A Tennessee Smokies (from Noah Wolf). … The Pirates all wore Pittsburgh Penguins jerseys while traveling on Thursday. David Freese, a native of St. Louis and a former Cardinal, wanted to wear a Blues jersey. He and his teammates struck a compromise. … Louisville will wear Muhammad Ali memorial patches on their caps (from Joseph Matlock). … The logo for the 2017 Triple-A All-Star Game was unveiled. It will be hosted by the Tacoma Rainiers (from Chris Daniels). … A man in Virginia has collected hundreds of Nationals souvenir cups (from Emily Gordon). … Rye High School in Westchester County, N.Y., wears White Sox beach blanket uniforms (from Rob Yasinsac). … Johnny Carson impersonated pitcher Fernando Valenzuela in a 1982 episode of The Tonight Show (from Douglas Ford). … Here’s a pack of MLB playing cards from 1990. I don’t believe the players are in any sort of hierarchy, though. … Peanuts-themed jerseys for the Florence Freedom this Sunday. … A young cancer survivor has a prosthetic eye with the Cubs’ logo (from Mary Lynn Delfino). … Ross Yoshida reports that Royals P Yordano Ventura wore 2-in-1 faux stirrups during the brawl against the Orioles the other night. … Mariners P Taijuan Walker’s shoes featured a graphic of Seattle’s Space Needle last night (from Ethan Allen).

NFL News: Has anyone seen this Jaguars logo before? Rob Warner found that at a Jacksonville sporting goods store. … Not quite sure which player that is, but a Bills player wore a LeBron James jersey at OTAs the other day (from @Buffalo_Tony). … Here’s what jersey numbers former Alabama players will wear as rookies in the NFL this year (from Phil). … The 1972 Cardinals had wide number spacing. That’s RB Craig Baynham (from Pro Football Journal).

College and High School Football News: Another day of the Jim Harbaugh Jersey Tour: He wore an Archie Manning jersey in Mississippi yesterday. … A former North Carolina safety was reunited with his long lost navy blue jersey. A fan found it last month at a Tar Heels athletic equipment yard sale (from Charles Allison). … Middle Tennessee will have a bevy of uniform combinations this year. … Pretty interesting helmets for the Empire Challenge High School All Star Game on June 21. … Florida’s equipment staff tweeted a neat video of old Gators helmets (from @DaveDoop). … Lineman prospect Jedrick Wills tweeted a photo showing new Notre Dame cleats (from Toby Deal). … Ohio State has worn a number of alternate jerseys since 2009 (from Phil).

Hockey News: New 50th-anniversary logo for the Brandon Wheat Kings (from Patrick Thomas). … Scott Rogers was at the USHL’s Madison Capitols home office and saw never-used home and away jersey concepts. “The staff told me they were early prototype designs before the team settled on its logos and uniforms prior to the inaugural 2014-15 season,” he says. “Bland and anodyne compared with what the team eventually went with, and very much centered on red, rather than the navy that the team opted to make its primary color.”

NBA News: NBA players make a point of trying to look good when they arrive at the arena. … The e-commerce analytics firm Slice Intelligence sent in shoe sales data regarding LeBron James and Steph Curry. … Cavs fans booed last night after the jumbotron showed Nickelback wearing Golden State jerseys (from Phil).

Soccer News: New home kit for Sheffield United (from Patrick Thomas). … New home kit for AFC Bournemouth (from reader Josh). … New pink-and-purple third kit for Sunderland. … At Copa American, CONMEBOL teams wear patches on the left sleeve. … The Netherlands and South Africa women went orange-vs.-yellow yesterday (from Yellow Away Kit).

Grab Bag: Barring an appeal, Mars will have to use a capital “M” logo for M&Ms in Sweden because it was found the lowercase logo was too close to another chocolatier’s mark (from Brinke). … Check it out: Desserts that mimic contemporary art (from Charles Noerenberg). … A shop in Los Angeles cleans scuffed-up designer sneakers (from Tommy Turner). … NAPA Auto Parts will sponsor Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi for two more races. “I’m kinda shocked Napa didn’t increase their sponsorship, since they are unbendingly loyal as a sponsor for thier race teams,” says David Firestone. … Google might be rolling out a new site design (from Brinke). … Bitcoin and 3D-printed smart tags are helping to combat counterfeit sneakers.

Comments (70)

    Clarification on the Alexander Rossi story in the ticker: the NAPA sponsorship ended as of last weekend (the Detroit dual races). Weird that NAPA wouldn’t want to continued sponsoring the Indy 500 winner and up-and-comer in the racing world…


    Agreed. I wrote a comment about that yesterday as well and had included the link to the liveries for this weekend’s race in Texas, where Rossi is back to black and white without a sponsor.


    “Ross Yoshida reports that Royals P Yordano Ventura wore 2-in-1 faux stirrups during the brawl against the Orioles the other night.”

    Another good reason for him to get his ass beat (just kidding, relax).

    I can see why the NFL would ban hoodies; it’s something easy to grab onto that a defender could (accidentally or intentionally) use to take a player down by the neck.

    Hoodies under baseball jerseys are an abomination, at least for players on the field. If a guy isn’t in the game no harm/no foul, but otherwise it’s a horrible look. Earflap caps and balaclavas are bad enough.

    I agree — wearing a hoodie would make it much easier to effect a horse-collar tackle.* Better to just do away with them and if the player wants to cover his ears and neck there are form-fitting spandex alternatives.

    * Yes, pulling a player down by a hoodie would not be a textbook horse collar but the effect is the same since the hoodie sits under the pads.

    Obviously not a hockey player here, but why (if hearing the reason so few NHL’ers wear them) don’t they have receivers in the helmets like NFL QB’s?

    As to the hoodie rule I’m not surprised this has happened as it’s not “uniform”. No Fun League indeed. Why not just wear a proper pullover sweater and get the same/similar feeling under the pads.

    Hockey players, I’ve never heard of them having receivers. Hockey shifts are very short 30-60 seconds. There’s not really an advantage to having radio compared to just skating to the bench to talk to coach.

    Could communicate between players, have a slightly louder audible line call signal, or have white noise so you can focus on the game.

    I never really noticed that the “Peanuts” gang didn’t wear uniforms when playing baseball–just their normal clothes.

    So really the Florida Freedom will be wearing Charlie Brown themed uniforms.

    Here is another story about the M&M logo issue. This one actually shows the Marabou logo in question.

    (I have mentioned before how MUCH I HATE it when stories talk about logos–AND THEN NEVER SHOW THE LOGOS!!!)


    Thanks for that link, because I originally thought the maribu m was clearly a capitol m.

    Yea, I can see their point, guess m&ms will have to use a capitol M…..or use &.

    Padres whiffed on the batting helmet logo. The S is entirely on top of the D, not interlocked like it should be. link

    Seeing them using matte helmets is already enough to show they didn’t care about truly being accurate. Big fail on the helmet end.

    So glad about the hoodie rule, it looked ridiculous. Now MLB needs to do it, as the Red Sox wore red hoodies during April.

    My favorite pointless hoodie wearer: David Ortiz, who neither plays a position nor sits in the dugout. He retreats to the clubhouse between at bats.

    I did notice that the MLB playing cards that some of the playing cards are associated with the playing positions.
    Example-all the catches are 2 and third baseman are 5, using the scorecard method.

    I’m pretty sure I have these in a box at home. I thought there was some type of system to it… like the Aces are the top 4 vote getters in the Cy Young, the Kings are top 4 finishers in MVP voting, something like that. I’ll have to dig mine up. I thought it was on the back of the box.

    Those are some of the more well done logo mashups I have seen in a good while.

    Thanks for sharing that! All pretty well done, and a few would actually be terrific logos for a Vegas team.

    I recall getting my first CCM helmet and the first thing I did was remove the ear things because they looked stupid and no pros wore them. Years later and much more safety aware I wear them and maybe subconsciously because I see them on TV.

    I’ve noticed Dustin Brown of the Kings wear the ear guards before, and lately Chris Kunitz this series.
    Why take them out? I’m sure it’s mostly vanity: those things do look kind of ugly and dorky, I have to admit. Plus, if you have Dumbo ears, I can imagine them being uncomfortable. You’d make yourself vulnerable to a rare-ish but painful injury, but for whatever reason it’s worth it to most NHLers.
    I played a little hockey too: if your league mandates HECC certified helmets, removing the ear guards voids the certification. The NHL does not. That’s why every goalie wears the cat eye cage. In that case, you can’t take a puck through the cage (but a puck can get stuck in there and make you shit your pants), but a stick totally could poke your eye out. No HECC certification, but better goalie sight lines => “worth the risk.”

    Ibc think you’ve hit it. 1. Vanity. 2. Comfort. I played Prep School Hockey in New England and college hockey. 1st thing we did was take out the ear pieces because they weren’t required. For me it was more comfort then vanity. I played a bit of a rough game so my head was always rattling around. I don’t have big ears, but on a lot of “big hits” (whether open ice or along the boards) the earpiece would always pinch, jam, etc. my ear and leave cuts, scraps, bruises, etc.

    The hoodie rule is a good one. Even at the youth soccer level, they are not allowed to play with the hood exposed. I’ve seen refs at the youngest ages stop play to make a player either remove the hoodie, or (in most instances) tuck the hood into the back of their jersey.

    It’s a simple thing, but can mean a lot for safety.

    I believe the Bills player wearing the Cavs jersey during practice was LB Preston Brown, an Ohio native.

    I know I’m in the minority, but those 1990’s Padres unis are my favorite of their many combinations over the years. A shame they screwed up the helmet logos on the throwbacks.

    I’m not convinced that it was Nickleback’s jerseys that were drawing the boos.

    Yeah, they could have been wearing “We rescue cute kittens” shirts and still be rightly booed.

    From the baseball ticker, the baseball team is the Tacoma Rainiers. “Tacoma rainers” are just people who go to parades.

    Typo catch in the soccer ticker: Copa America, not Copa American

    Also, to clarify, teams from CONMEBOL (the South American federation) are wearing the federation’s 100th anniversary logo on the left sleeve, the centennial tournament logo on the right sleeve. CONCACAF (the North/Central America and the Caribbean) teams are just wearing the tournament logo, nothing on the left sleeve.

    Jeff Skinner of the Carolina Hurricanes has worn the ear guard on his helmet after taking a puck to the ear in practice a couple of seasons ago.

    Anyone else find it odd that the Padres’ caps look to be store-bought, with the sticker on the brim? Maybe they come in to the club that way? Just didn’t expect to see that in a player’s locker…

    There’s no rule against it. Yet.

    If MLB can’t issue a mandate regarding pant length because of assumed resistance from the players’ union, why believe that hoodies will be treated any different?

    Because there’s a difference between the uniform (which is addressed in the rulebook) and equipment (which, for the most part, is NOT rulebook-regulated, and is therefore subject to edicts from the MLB office).

    Not to reference Crosby’s manhood (or lack thereof) but I personally think less of NHLers that keep the ear guards on their helmets, even if they’re worn by some of the more-elite players. I play men’s league and remove the guards because I don’t like the feeling.

    OK — so you remove them because you “don’t like the feeling.” Nothing wrong with that.

    But you “personally think less of” players who don’t remove them. Why? What if they’re fine with the way it feels? Why would you think less of them? is it because you actually *are* questioning their “manhood” (whatever the fuck that means), despite your protestations to the contrary?

    Full disclosure, I’m a Caps fan. I was implying that I think he and his teammates are pu$$ies. But they’re about to win another Stanley Cup, so I’ll shut up

    But you weren’t talking just about Crosby and the Penguins.

    You said you “personally think less of NHLers that keep the ear guards on their helmets.” Not just Penguins players, but NHLers.

    I ask again: Why?

    Ah yes, but the question is, will the No Fun League enforce the rule against hoodies as much as they enforce the rule about pants that “must go over the knee”? Which is to say, not at all, if you look at the photo with the story.

    “Albert Almora, a Cubs OF prospect who was called up a few days ago, will go JrOB.”

    Unless a guy’s father is also on the team, what’s the point?

    This is where Mark in Shiga asks, what’s the point of any NOB at all because the program includes the roster for the game?
    I’m not a huge fan of elective suffixes either. Jr. is a suffix, and not part of the last name. I’d prefer a uniform rule of “last names only, period” or “first initial only if ‘necessary.'” Like, if now-known-as Melvin Upton Jr. were ever his brother Justin’s teammate again, I’d rather M. Upton and J. Upton.

    Brian is right…Having a suffix never bothered me before, until today. That picture just doesn’t look pleasing. There is an awkward space needed that looks poor and for what really?

    Isn’t it incorrect anyway? He’s really Albert, Jr., not Almora Jr. so the whole thing is kinda dumb to me. I don’t remember Ripken ever needing the Jr. The only thing dumber is Sr. Like we thought Steve Smith’s infant might be playing for the Ravens?

    As for the earpiece are we just talking professional here. I went looking at a lot of college hockey photos (North Dakota, Minnesota, Michigan, Denver) and didn’t see a single one for a men’s player. There were for some of the women’s teams. I find it odd that you can go without in college but then have to go back in some minor leagues. Especially with all the NCAA regs.

    Also I noticed NCAA goalies are now wearing catseye masks. A few years ago you only saw the HECC cages. I wonder if the rule changed?

    I took my earguards (and cage) off as soon as I turned 18. They look dorky (in my opinion) and I wanted to look like the pros.

    I have an earguard story. I was in midgets (16 years old) and a teammate went down to block a shot and ended up taking the puck full speed and square into the ear guard, the hard edge of the plastic combined with the puck impact severed the end of his ear!(think Tyson vs. Holyfield). This was 15 years ago with an old Bauer 3000 helmet.

    From the article about the former-UNC player finding his old jersey:

    “If players received all of their uniforms, there would be no remaining uniforms. And universities would be in a perpetual cycle of reordering a completely new set of jerseys year after year.”

    That came across as funny/ironic to me, especially since most larger universities, including UNC, and manufacturers seem to come up with new designs and templates seemingly every year anyway.

    Still wearing the Jofa for hockey – playing out and for playing in goal, but not the particular model you have pictured (though I did wear one at one point).

    likely a couple decades or so back with older model Jofa:

    a few years ago with Jofa 390:

    Pretty sure the Bills player wearing the LeBron jersey is LeSean McCoy. About 80 percent sure.

    The Jaguars logo seems to have a face within the face. Kind of looks like a mask. The white parts almost look like the top of a king’s robe next to the inner face.

    Helmet is looking great and strong..I would like to purchase it, but can we use it in the time of bike or cycle riding.?


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