A Vancouver Island hockey team has announced neck guards will be mandatory for all players during every game following the death of player Adam Johnson in the U.K. last weekend.
Johnson, a 29-year-old Minnesota native who played 13 NHL games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, was playing with the Nottingham Panthers of the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) Saturday when he had his neck cut by a skate blade during the second period.
His death has reverberated around the hockey world.
Now the Saanich Predators of the Vancouver Island Jr. A Hockey League has said neck guards will be purchased by the teams’ owners and every player will be wearing one by Friday when the Predators play the Victoria Cougars.
Players range from 16 to 21 years old.
“In light of the tragic loss of Adam Johnson, 29 this weekend as a result of a freak on-ice accident while playing for the Nottingham Panthers as a part of the UK Elite League’s Challenge Cup, we feel this is the respectful and responsible thing to do, not only for our players but for all hockey families who are saddened by this terrible loss,” Norm Kelly, co-owner of the Predators, said in a statement.
“The Predator family joins the entire hockey world in mourning the sudden passing of Adam. We offer our deepest condolences to the Johnson family, his friends and teammates during this terribly difficult time,” continues Kelly.
Officials have been calling for neck guards to be mandated in the wake of Johnson’s death.
Canada’s sport minister Carla Qualtrough told Global News in an emailed statement Tuesday that it was “concerning” that the NHL and Western Hockey League (WHL) don’t have a mandate in place.
“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Adam Johnson. I want to convey my most sincere condolences to his family, friends, and teammates. Accidents like these are preventable,” she said.
“Hockey leagues around the world, including right here in Canada, have rules requiring neck guards. It is concerning that both the WHL and NHL do not have this rule. I encourage them to put in place a rule requiring neck guards.”
In addition, Haley Wickenheiser, a four-time Olympic women’s hockey gold medallist who has also completed medical school said earlier this week that neck guards should be mandated.
She said the risk is far too great not to wear neck protection, even if it doesn’t pass the “cool factor.”
— with files from Aaron D’Andrea and The Canadian Press
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