The Goalie Issue:Sticking Their Necks Out

Father And Son’s Passion For Protection Helping Make The Game Safer For Goalies


A.J. Ostrander was instrumental in creating an international standard for neck protectors that will help future generations of goaltenders.A.J. Ostrander was instrumental in creating an international standard for neck protectors that will help future generations of goaltenders.

When an ice hockey player’s protective gear breaks from a flying puck, there is often a nervous moment for parents sitting in the bleachers.

When that happened to the throat protector worn by 14-year-old A.J. Ostrander for the fourth time—and it shattered into several pieces on the ice—his father Jerry said, “Something’s not right here.”

Jerry started asking around and other parents, players and coaches all told him a version of the same story: Yes, the throat protectors that are attached to the bottom of the goalie’s mask would sometimes break. And each time that piece was broken, games would have to be delayed to find a replacement.

But at a relatively low replacement cost—and with no reports of serious injuries from the breakages—no one had made a concerted effort to fix the problem.

Jerry was particularly concerned because he suspected that some goalies in his son’s league or elsewhere might simply continue to play with broken throat protection, or without protection altogether. Without that piece of protective equipment, the larynx, trachea, esophagus, cartilage, vocal cords and more would be exposed.

“I spent 25 years protecting people, but I didn’t feel like our kids were being protected,” said the retired police officer.

He started writing letters to a number of organizations and federal agencies that deal with health and safety. When someone pointed him to ASTM International, a global standards organization, he went online and saw that ASTM was the home for several ice hockey equipment standards.

“Aha! I finally landed in the right spot,” he thought.

However, Jerry quickly realized that there was no safety standard at ASTM International—or any other body—for throat protectors.

The Process Begins

Undeterred, Jerry contacted Mark Granger, the chairman of ASTM’s ice hockey subcommittee.

Granger was a little surprised – but pleased – to hear directly from a consumer about a potential new standard in this area. But remembering ASTM’s commitment to openness to anyone interested in developing standards, he advised Jerry to submit a letter that he could share with members of his subcommittee.

It was clear that Jerry had done his homework. He sent a detailed letter to Mark in January 2010, requesting that the group draft a consensus standard for “polycarbonate hanging goalie throat protectors.” The letter told how A.J. had been playing goalie since age 7 in a local hockey league and had just started playing in high school.

“There’s something breaking, and your committee can fix it!” he summarized at the end of the letter.
Mark put the topic on the agenda for the next meeting in St. Louis that May.

“I’ll be there,” Jerry said. “And I’m bringing A.J.”

Task Group Gets To Work

When someone goes to ASTM and proposes a new standard, a task group is often formed to explore the idea.

David Rudd, the senior development manager at Bauer Hockey, volunteered to lead the effort. Granger also decided to be part of it. And, of course, Jerry and A.J. joined the group.

“Our initial observations were that we didn’t have reports of injuries, but we did see some reports of breakages of throat guards,” Rudd said. “We knew we could do even more to protect the throat and address this concern, so our task group got to work.”

The manufacturers started determining key requirements that should be in the standard, including how the protectors were constructed, how they were attached to the mask, product markings for consumers and more.

Then the group developed a testing process, which involved shooting high velocity hockey pucks from an air cannon at a head form mounted with a mask and throat protector. This test method also became part of the standard itself.

Crossing The Finish Line

The data came together, and the new standard started taking shape, complete with descriptions and drawings.

In May 2015, Jerry and A.J. went to another ASTM meeting, this time in Anaheim, Calif. Toward the end of the meeting, it became clear to the subcommittee that the standard could soon cross the finish line.

Granger asked Jerry and A.J. to stand up. At 19 years old, it was clear to the crowd that A.J. had grown up a bit. The room full of ASTM members applauded.

“In essence, what A.J. did was create an international standard for this piece of gear at the youngest age I’ve ever seen,” said Granger, an ASTM member since 1994.

The standard, which was given final approval on March 15, is now on the books: F3165, Standard Specification for Throat Protective Equipment for Hockey Goaltenders.

Now a junior at Coastal Carolina University, A.J. still plays hockey, even though the nearest rink is a few hours away. Although he has been instrumental in the development of the new standard, he’s still impressed with how it all came to be.

“I think it’s pretty cool how it started with my dad and I,” he said. He’s thrilled that the throat protector standard is “something so small, but it can make a big impact.”

Granger expects the Hockey Equipment Certification Council to use the new standard, and that other organizations could follow suit, helping further ensure safety for millions of youth and adults who play ice hockey.

Daniel Bergels is a public relations manager with ASTM International.


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