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The hockey bag often contains equipment that needs to be tossed or mended. ((Ken Wolff/CBC Sports))

Have you noticed how another winter at the rink has taken its toll on your kids’ equipment?

In our house, we’re talking about holes in the socks, frayed skate laces and gloves lined with little nicks and cuts from a season full of hacking and slashing.

We’re all pretty good about taking care of these equipment issues as they arise and we’ll certainly make sure it’s all patched up and ready to go before the next season of hockey rolls around.

I’m not sure, though, if the same can be said for the mandatory throat protector or neck guards our kids wear at every game and practice.

Wearing thin

It was hockey laundry day earlier this week when I noticed my son’s neck guard was looking like it’s been used to dry skate blades all season.

The white isn’t really white anymore and some of the edging looks worn out with little pieces of thread sticking out.  It’s become very flimsy and ‘worn in’ and it just doesn’t resemble the clean, crisp collar that we brought home from the store about two seasons ago.

As I dropped it into the washing machine, I started wondering if there’s an expiry date on throat protectors? After a certain period of time or a certain amount of use, are we supposed to replace it with a new one, no matter how good or bad it looks?

Does Google know?

With the throat protector ‘expiry’ question nagging at me, I decided to do what most of us do these days when we’re looking for a quick answer or explanation; I ‘Googled’ it.

I typed in the question "do hockey throat protectors wear out?"  0.38 seconds after hitting the search button, I was staring at the first of about 6,450 results.  It did not answer my question.

4 pages or 40 responses later, I still didn’t have the answer. I moved ahead to the 15th page and I still couldn’t find the answer.  I jumped ahead to the 40th page and the 400th response and I still didn’t know if the old throat protector was useable or safe.

What I decided to do next will surprise some of you and it will shock our younger readers.

I picked up the phone and called a real, live person.

Does CCM know?

The throat protector we have is from CCM so I called the customer service number at their Montreal office and I had the answer I was looking for in about 3 minutes.

According to the lady I spoke with, a well-worn throat protector is still in good working order as long as the plastic piece inside the collar or bib-style protector remains in place at all times.

If the stitching is starting to come undone and you think there might be a chance the plastic will fall out, then either repair or replace the throat protector immediately.

I was also told it’s a good idea to hand wash the throat protector instead of using the washing machine if I want to prolong its shelf life. 

A good reminder

While I was searching through the Google hits on the throat protector, I was reminded of some of the serious neck injuries hockey has experienced over the years.  

My time on-line served as an excellent reminder to make sure the throat protectors in our equipment bags are in good working condition before we head back to the rink.

And remember, your child’s throat protector must be BNQ approved (Bureau de normalisation du Québec), according to the Hockey Canada rulebook.