As with many sports, how hockey equipment has changed has greatly impacted the way the game is played today. Innovations in hockey's past include the introduction of curved blades on sticks, enabling shooters to more easily elevate the puck and increase shot control and speed; changes in skate fit and blades allowing for greater speed, control, and stopping ability; and, perhaps most importantly, the evolution of protective gear for both skaters and goaltenders, with pads changing from mere thin leather to hard plastic and goalie masks evolving from none at all—hard to imagine in today's hockey world—to the helmets allowing full visibility and protection worn by netminders today.
If you watch a classic game from the sixties or before, it's striking how hockey equipment has changed. The players look smaller, partly because they were in the era before supplements and weight training, and partly because the pads they wore beneath their sweaters—for a time, actually sweaters and not jerseys—were much thinner and often made of just leather and fabric. Today, shoulder, elbow and shin pads are made from composites and plastics that offer much more protection from flying pucks, sticks, and elbows. How hockey equipment has changed the game in this regard means that players are far less concerned for their own safety and play a wilder, faster style with harder hits. The problem with this is when certain pieces of equipment, like the helmet, have not caught up to the shoulder pads, and hits that in the past would not have happened because of the slower speed of the game now cause concussions and other serious injuries.
The most significant aspect how hockey equipment has changed over the years involves the shooting and stopping of the puck. Sticks have moved from wooden shafts and straight blades to composite, graphite, or aluminum shafts with greatly curved blades. The result is higher, harder, better aimed shots. How hockey equipment has changed for goalies has finally caught up to the innovations in sticks, with safer masks, thick leg pads that even offer protection to the back of the leg if the goalie gets turned around, glove and blocker that protect the netminder's hands, and chest and neck protectors that not only protect against the puck but also help the goalie take up more of the net and make more saves.
Some do not like how hockey equipment has changed, saying that the equipment, rather than making the game safer, encourages reckless play and actually makes it more dangerous. Others think that how hockey equipment has changed, particularly when it comes to goaltenders, has made the game the best it's ever been. Either way, hockey equipment has undergone a radical transformation since the sports inception.