Wearing the pants in the hockey family

Former Team Canada defenceman Geraldine Heaney knows what it's like to win Olympic gold and take home seven straight world championships. She also knows what it's like to fall on her backside on the ice while wearing hockey pants that offer little protection.

Geraldine Heaney has a pretty good 'feel' for the game of hockey. 

The former Team Canada defenceman knows what it feels like to win seven straight IIHF World Championships.  Heaney knows what it feels like to win both gold and silver medals at the Winter Olympics. 

And she knows what it feels like to fall on your backside on the ice while wearing a hockey pant with very little protection.

"I think I fell on a stick and I got hurt pretty bad," says Heaney.  "There just wasn't much padding in the pant." 

Heaney suffered a bruised tailbone during that one particular incident and she can recall a few other painful moments which she blames directly on poorly padded pants.

But once she was introduced to Ron Kenney and his customized RYR hockey pants, the pain went away immediately.   

"I wore his pants years ago with the (Beatrice-North York) Aeros and they were my favorite pair of pants," says Heaney who is the current head coach of the University of Waterloo women's hockey team.

"It was the type of pant you just didn't want to give up."

Protecting your 'end'

Ron Kenney started RYR Sports Inc. back in 1987 in an attempt to create a hockey pant that protected Canadian backsides better than any other pant on the market.

Slowly but surely, Kenney designed, built, then patented and trademarked the '6000 RYR Tailbone Pant' for girls, boys, men and women.

While his pant looks similar to almost everything else you'll find on the sports store shelf, Kenney says his patented one-piece tailbone protector makes his brand of pant a safer product than the rest.

"My tailbone pant is much superior to anything on the market," says Kenney.  "We monitor our pant pretty closely and in the last 16 years we haven't found a middle-body injury, so something's got to be working there."

In fact, it's working so well, Kenney is proud to point out that 80 to 90 minor hockey organizations in Canada are wearing his RYR pants, including a number of triple A clubs in the Greater Toronto Hockey League.

"The top minor midget team in Ontario this year would be the York Simcoe Express and that whole association wears my pants," says Kenney.

Olympic-sized Endorsement

Former Canadian Olympians have worn his pants as well, including some household names like Heaney, Cassie Campbell and Vicky Sunohara.

Heaney says the fact that Kenney designed hockey pants to fit the female hockey form is another reason she was drawn to his RYR design.

"If you have the men's equipment and you don't like a piece of padding in it, you'll cut it out to make it more comfortable," says Heaney. "When I put on a pair of regular pants, you really have to yank at the waist instead of it just kind of fitting, contoured to your body."

"It's the curvature of my hips," says Kenney.  "It's designed for a ladies body but it also fits the men perfectly.  On some men it'll look a little rounded but they don't care.  They're looking for protection."

CSA approval?

Protection is first and foremost for Kenney when it comes to the on-going production of his hockey pant, and he wishes it was the same for his competitors.

Kenney thinks today's big manufacturers of hockey pants could be doing a better job of protecting the tailbone and surrounding area. "That's where they're getting the injuries, but nobody does anything about it," says Kenney.

"In my opinion, they should pay less attention to the cosmetics of the pant and more to the protection of the pant."

To that point, Kenney adds he'd like to see a day when hockey pants have to be CSA (Canadian Standards Association) certified just like visors, facemasks and helmets.

"Too many kids are getting hurt because of bad products out there," says Kenney.

Helping his community

Kenney figures he's too small an outfit to have an impact with an organization like CSA so he'll keep spending his time and energy on manufacturing pants that protect like no other.

He says if his company produces another average year of pant sales, then there will be at least 12,000 hockey players using his patented tailbone protection on the ice in 2009.

There are also teams using some of the other hockey equipment built by RYR Sports thanks to Kenney's annual tradition of giving something back to the game he loves. 

For the 12th year in a row, Kenney recently participated in the Hockey Development Centre for Ontario's 'Penalty Free Sweepstakes' by donating RYR jerseys, tote bags and track suits to 11 Ontario minor league teams.

He's also in the business of manufacturing and selling equipment bags, gloves, sweaters, socks and a few other hockey-related items. His true pride and joy, however, is still the 6000 RYR Tailbone Pant.

The safety success of this product continues to provide Kenney with a feeling of satisfaction and that's what keeps him going after more than two decades in the hockey pant business.

"I'm really proud of kids not getting hurt in my pants. That's what I'm most proud of."