Who got skates for Christmas? Don't suppose you managed to get safety equipment, too, hmmm? Here's an overview:
All beginners should wear head protection. Period. I would love to see the federations start requiring it for everyone, but I'm a well-known maverick. As regular readers of this blog know, I'm sold on the Ice Halo. It's comfortable, stylish and functional for skating. Other good choices are skateboard helmets, which have forehead protection, and a flat back. Bike helmets are not a good choice. The pointy backs on some helmets can snap your head forward if you fall backwards, adding whiplash to the injury.
Helmets must fit. A helmet that is too big or too small is essentially the same as no helmet at all. Do not wear a hat under the helmet. If you think you'll be cold without, get a do-rag, which will provide enough wind protection to keep your head warm. (Do rags are great for hockey players-- they keep the hair out of your face without having to resort to girl-stuff like scrunchies.)
A soft hat is better than a helmet that doesn't fit. The Ice Halo is even better.
I wouldn't hate to see all adult beginners in wrist guards. Adults commonly brace falls on their wrists, rather than aiming for tuck and roll. It's an instinct, very hard to fight. Wrist guards are the answer, plus they're unobtrusive.
I see more knee pads creating problems than solving them. If you feel you need them, don't get pads that stick out and catch on themselves or your clothing-- try to find the ace-bandage type that have a soft pad over the knee, rather than strap-on braces. Knee pads, especially on children, should not be made of slick plastic, because you won't be able to put your knee on the ice when trying to stand up--you'll just slide. Cover them with fabric, or put them under your clothes.
Are you in a game or scrimmage? Go for it-- full regalia. Are you messing around with your buds? I think you can skip the shoulder pads, at least. Shin guards should ALWAYS be covered with socks, otherwise it's an open invitation to sliding games, otherwise known as bowling on the ice, with the hockey boy as the bowling ball, and YOU as the pin. Or better yet, skip everything but the helmet when you're just out there for fun, you little wimps.
A must for little kids. Gloves will avert more injuries than any other single item in a class or crowded public session. When little kids fall, they tend to stay on the ice, and they tend to put their hands on the ice. If another skater runs into their bare hands, they will get cut. With gloves on, even thin gloves, it just hurts. No gloves also means they'll need help getting up, because they won't want to put their hands down on the cold surface.
Not being stupid
• Don't carry things. No cameras. No purses. For pity's sake, no small children.
• Don't hold hands, or, if you do, remember to let go if someone starts to fall. If you hold hands, remember that this is not a guarantee of keeping your feet.
• Crack the whip, and pinwheels. Well, I'm not crazy about crack the whip, but I'm a known wimp. Don't play this game unless EVERYONE on the ice is involved and the guards are okay with it.
• Hot dogging. Like to go fast and crazy? Find an empty session. Hot dogging on crowded public ice doesn't prove your a good skater. It just proves you're an asshole.
• Public sessions. Not for multiple rotation jumps, hot dogging (see above). running programs, backward spirals, et cetera, unless it's one of those midday sessions that are empty.
Ice injuries are rare
If you skate only occasionally your odds are good against injury, even if you're not very good. Falls on the ice hurt, and are scary, but seldom result in injury. If you skate a lot, the odds go up, and you should consider some of the recommendations above. Beginner classes, in my opinion, should require head protection, and many rinks now do require this in tot classes. If your rink does not require helmets for tots or hockey classes, make them tell you why.