I’ve worn a ton of hockey helmets in my day. I’m no Jaromir Jagr or anything, but I grew up in Boston (the Bruins were (and are) my favorite hometown team), I played hockey (albeit poorly) all growing up, played a little IM in college and would still willingly play pond hockey in sub zero temperatures. I’m not a Canadian, and my uncle Dennis has forgotten more about hockey than I’ll ever know, but my opinion on headgear is more than valid simply because I’ve been playing lacrosse; a team sport with very protective, and on average the most comfortable, helmets.
I also have an appreciation for bad hockey helmets. They’re either uncomfortable (most) or leave your head pretty much entirely exposed. The new Nike/Bauer helmets were ok, and the Reebok helmets seem to work well enough but it was time for someone to come out with something better. And what would you know, but Cascade Sports, the makers of top notch lax lids, has ventured into the fray! They had a helmet out for a while and it got good reviews, but not great. Some guys I know wear it for box lacrosse and they said the protection is pretty good, the comfort is a bit better than most hockey helmets but that it looked a little weird, kind of like an old Jofa. And no one wants that. Except Jagr. Did I mention I’m NOT Jagr? I did? Good.
Well I got my hands on a new M11 (Messier project) Helmet from Cascade Sports and all I can say is wow. wow. wow. wow. I can say it 4 times.
This thing is ridiculously comfortable. Blows my old Nike/Bauer helmet out of the water. And by old Nike helmet, I mean my helmet from 2 years ago. I almost didn’t believe it myself, but after trying the M11 on, and then trying on my CPro7, and then switching again and again and again, I can now say with some certainty that the hockey helmet is more comfortable. I know, that’s totally shocking. I wasn’t expecting anything this comfortable, so maybe that has colored my reaction, but I’m impressed nonetheless. And I can say with a lot of certainty that you will be too if you get an M11.
One of the best feature of the helmet is the padding, which you can see in the pictures lower down in this post. It is the same technology that cascade uses on their lacrosse helmets so it’s no wonder I could barely tell the two apart. The all important back of the head and upper neck is heavily padded but somehow the helmet doesn’t seem bulbous towards the rear at all and sits on your head with a nice forward tilt.
The other “best feature” on the helmet is the sizing adjustments. A lot of hockey helmets today are two-piece models where the front and back are separate plastic components. They are often anchored in place with plastic clips and there is a front piece and a rear piece with overlap. This method only allows you to adjust the helmet sizing front to back, even though heads are more round than square. Did you know that? Grounbreaking stuff, I know. Heads are round. So this is the adjustment system most helmets use:
So my problem has always been that due to my large dome, the side of hockey helmets ALWAYS pinched right behind my temples. Needless to say, after an hour or so of wearing a hockey helmet, my head was throbbing a little. After 3-4 hours (yes, I play lax for hours on end sometimes) I’d have a legit headache. Not a good thing. Now I know my 7 5/8 head size isn’t a problem for anyone, but I think it illustrates the shortcoming of traditional hockey helmet sizing technology.
The Cascade model differs nicely. The helmet is more of a solid one piece construction with one smaller second piece in the back. This mean the shell is primarily made up of one piece of plastic and that the size adjusts from within, instead of being two half shells overlapping. The one piece construction is stronger than the two-piece. I can feel that just squeezing the helmets in my hands. But the best thing is the circular sizing that the Cascade model uses. At the back of the helmet (where the smaller second helmet piece is located) is a plastic strap (kind of like snowboard bindings) that allows you to tighten or loosen the fit. This pulls the shell into a tighter circle or a looser circle using two dimensions (front to back, side to side) instead of one dimension on typical helmets (front to back).
Of course I threw a box mask on the helmet (chrome!) and I’ll be using it as my new go-to helmet. Box, field, lessons… it doesn’t matter. This is my new helmet of choice. Boom.