Canada’s sports minister is calling on the NHL to require players to wear neck guards following the death of Adam Johnson in England over the weekend.
Carla Qualtrough told Global News in an emailed statement Tuesday that she is “concerning” that the NHL and Western Hockey League (WHL) do not have a mandate in place.
“I was saddened to learn of the passing of Adam Johnson. I would like to convey my deepest condolences to his family, friends and teammates. Such accidents are preventable,” she said.
“Hockey leagues around the world, including here in Canada, have rules requiring the wearing of neck guards. It is concerning that the WHL and NHL do not have this rule. I encourage them to implement a rule requiring neck wear.
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) on Saturday when he was cut neck by a skate blade during the second period. .
His death and its aftermath reverberated throughout the hockey world, with moments of silence observed across the NHL and with the Penguins adding “AJ 47” stickers to their helmets.
The hockey world is also wondering what steps should be taken to prevent this from happening again.
Four-time Olympic gold medalist Hayley Wickenheiser called for mandatory neck protection at “all levels of hockey” on Monday. According to her, not wearing protection presents too great a risk, even if it is not fashionable.
“I know this may not exceed the cool factor, but it’s time for mandatory neck protection at all levels of hockey. The risk is far too great not to do it,” Wickenheiser said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
Bauer, which makes hockey equipment, on Monday called for a mandate on neck protection and the development of new guidelines to ensure that mandate is enforced in leagues at all levels.
Although neck guards are not mandatory in the NHL, the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League require players to wear neck guards. It is also mandatory for Hockey Canada players registered in minor or women’s hockey.
The WHL told Global News in a statement it would review its position on mandatory neck gaiters following Johnson’s death.
The NHL did not respond to requests for comment from Global News prior to publication Tuesday.
Three British hockey associations will force players to wear neck guards next year. The English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA), Ice Hockey UK and Scottish Ice Hockey all announced rule changes on Monday.
“The EIHA strongly recommends that all players at all levels of English ice hockey use an approved ice hockey neck guard/protector when participating in all on-ice activities. This “strong recommendation” is in effect until December 31, 2023, after which it will become a mandatory requirement. This is not mandatory with immediate effect due to anticipated supply issues,” the ministry said. the organization reads.
“As in all sports, the safety of our players must come first. We are firmly committed to our obligation to exhaust all possible means to ensure that a tragic incident of this nature never strikes our sport again.
Declarations of Ice Hockey United Kingdom And Scottish ice hockey read similarly to that of the EIHA, in which they announce a series of other measures. The EIHA governs all levels of hockey in England and Wales below the EIHL. Ice Hockey UK governs the British national teams, while Scottish Ice Hockey regulates the game in Scotland.
Neck guards are not mandatory at the EIHL. Global News reached out to the EIHL for comment but did not receive a response at the time of publication. In the United Kingdom, players are allowed to play without a neck guard after the age of 18.
South Yorkshire Police are investigating the incident.
“Since Saturday, detectives have carried out a series of investigations, including examining footage, speaking to witnesses and seeking the advice and support of highly specialized experts to try to understand the circumstances surrounding what happened. passed,” police said in a statement released Tuesday.
“Our officers have now left the scene, but due to the complex nature of this tragic and unprecedented incident, it is likely that a wider investigation will take some time.”
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), which governs the sport worldwide, said in its latest regulations that players are recommended to properly wear protection against neck lacerations.
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“Players playing in the senior categories but belonging to the ‘Under 20’ and ‘Under 18’ categories must wear the appropriate protective equipment in these U20 and U18 categories in accordance with the specific rules,” specifies the IIHF.
Global News reached out for comment but did not receive a response from the IIHF at the time of publication Monday. Global News has also reached out to the NHL and players’ association for comment.
NHL players and coaches react
Washington Capitals winger TJ Oshie, co-owner of Warroad Hockey Equipment, a clothing company named after his Minnesota hometown, said Monday he received about 100 text messages from other players asking for materials cut resistant and that the entire inventory was sold out on Sunday. .
Winnipeg Jets interim head coach Scott Arniel was a Buffalo Sabers forward when his teammate, goaltender Clint Malarchuk, hit his neck with a skate blade on March 22, 1989.
“I witnessed this and saw it happen myself in a game, and it’s one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen,” Arniel told reporters in Winnipeg on Monday.
“Where does it go next… I know in minor hockey it’s already a rule and in junior hockey, so we’ll see. The league will likely look into the matter and make a decision in the future.
Hockey Player’s Close Call Shines Spotlight on Neck Guards
Malarchuk survived the life-threatening injury, but developed post-traumatic stress disorder. Former Montreal Canadiens forward Richard Zednik suffered a similar incident in 2008.
Boston Bruins forward Jakub Lauko avoided serious injury as recently as Tuesday when he injured himself with a skate blade near his left eye after falling to the ice against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis, who coached his sons in Connecticut before taking the job in Montreal, was close to a similar situation when 16-year-old high school player Teddy Balkind, died in Greenwich, Connecticut, after his neck was cut by another player’s skate in January 2022.
USA Hockey, the national body that oversees the sport in the United States, recommends that players wear neck guards, but does not require them.
Nova Scotia hockey player near death
St. Louis has said it strongly supports requiring players under 18 and under 20 to wear neck protection, but he’s not sure we’ll see it in the NHL.
“Maybe so, but I don’t think it will be in the NHL, but that’s my opinion,” St. Louis said. “I would really support under-18s and under-20s having more protection because accidents happen, especially after being close to one two years ago.”
Jets center Mark Scheifele expects there will be plenty of talk about increased neck protection in the coming days, much like after Edmonton Oilers forward Evander Kane suffered a serious injury on the wrist due to a cut skate blade last year.
“When Evander Kane got his wrist cut, we obviously evaluated more wrist guards and stuff like that,” Scheifele said Monday.
“I’m sure there will be discussions about it and it will be more of an individual decision on what to do.”
— with files from The Canadian Press
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