Johnson Tragedy Prompts NHL Safety Discussions

Date IconLast Updated: 2023 Oct 31
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Johnson Tragedy Prompts NHL Safety Discussions

The hockey world is reeling after the death this weekend of former NHLer Adam Johnson after his throat was cut by a skate blade during an Elite Ice Hockey League game overseas.

In the aftermath, players and coaches are discussing whether neck protection should be made mandatory.

Johnson, a 29-year-old former member of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins, died following the on-ice accident while playing for the Nottingham Panthers. The Panthers play in England’s top league, the Elite Ice Hockey League. Johnson was injured during a collision with a player for the Sheffield Steelers.

Should Neck Protection Be Mandatory?

After Saturday’s incident, Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Pascal Vincent spoke out on the issue.

“What’s the cost?” he said in a statement shared by Blue Jackets reporter Mark Scheig. “I mean, you have two eyes. A neck is a very dangerous area. I don’t know. I don’t know what the cost is. I mean, are we more, we’re males and we’re strong and we have a lot of testosterone and we want to show it to the world. Yeah. Okay. But what’s the cost? When you see this you’re wondering, can we prevent the next one? Is there a way to prevent that? And if it’s wearing the neck guard or turtleneck guard, I don’t know what that is, but why not? Why not? That’s how I see it.”

'An Individual Decision'

Hockey players and fans of a certain generation will also remember Clint Malarchuk, the NHL goalie who, as a member of the Buffalo Sabres, almost died after having his throat cut by a skate in a goal crease scramble during a game in 1989.

Even after the recent incident involving Johnson, however, some players seem hesitant to wear neck protection, especially neck guards. Comfort is one issue, according to some players.

The question then becomes whether the league should grandfather in neck protection, as with visors. At the very least, people around the NHL today are having serious conversations.

“I am sure it’s going to be talked about,” Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele told reporters. “Just very sad. Thoughts and prayers to his whole family. When Evander Kane [of the Edmonton Oilers] got his wrist cut, we evaluated more wrist protection. So I am sure there is going to be talks about this. It will come down to an individual decision on what to do.”