English Ice Hockey Association to require players to wear neck guards in wake of Adam Johnson death

Police investigating death of US ice hockey player from skate blade cut in English game

6abc Digital Staff Image
Tuesday, October 31, 2023
Former NHL player Adam Johnson dies after being slashed by skate
American ice hockey player Adam Johnson has died after being slashed by a skate.

Changes are coming in response to the death of ice hockey player Adam Johnson in England.

A skate blade cut Johnson's neck during an on-ice collision with an opponent Saturday.

Johnson's former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, paid tribute to him Tuesday night.

The 29-year-old, who also played for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, had been playing for the Nottingham Panthers.

South Yorkshire police said people should avoid speculation while they investigate Saturday's incident.

"Our officers remain at the scene carrying out inquiries and our investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident remain ongoing," South Yorkshire Police said on Monday. "We would encourage the public to avoid speculation regarding the incident while we continue our inquiries."

The English Ice Hockey Association, which governs the sport below the Elite League, reacted to Johnson's death by requiring all players in England to wear neck guards from the start of 2024.

Neck guards will be mandatory from Jan. 1 for all on-ice activities. The EIHA gave on Monday its "strong recommendation" that all players start wearing a neck guard, effective immediately. It said neck guards would not be mandatory immediately because of anticipated supply issues.

"It is unacceptable for any player to lose their life while playing sport," the EIHA said. "Our responsibility is not only to avert the recurrence of such a heartbreaking accident, but also to pre-emptively address other foreseeable incidents in the future."

Players in the U.K. are allowed to play without neck guards after they turn 18.

Within 12 months, the EIHA said it would conduct a "thorough" review of player safety equipment "including, but not limited to, the use of helmets, mouthguards/gumshields and facial protection."

All clubs will have to demonstrate they "proactively manage player safety."

The body said its actions aligned with Ice Hockey UK and Scottish Ice Hockey.

"We are firmly committed to our obligation to exhaust every possible means to ensure that a tragic incident of this nature never befalls our sport again," the EIHA said. "Undoubtedly, this moment in time casts a somber shadow upon our global sporting community, serving as a stark reminder of our collective responsibilities as custodians of the sport. As in all sports, the safety of our players must take precedence above all else."

Johnson's death and its aftermath reverberated around the hockey community, with moments of silence held around the NHL and the Penguins adding "AJ 47" decals to their helmets.

Hockey manufacturer, Bauer, also called for a mandate on neck protection.

"Along with the larger hockey community, we mourn Adam's tragic passing," CEO Ed Kinnaly said in a statement. "We believe now is the time for the hockey community to collectively come together to take meaningful action in an urgent manner."

Kinnaly said Bauer was committed to educating parents and players on the importance of cut-resistant gear, work with professional athletes to get feedback on product design and collaborate with governing bodies such as USA Hockey and Hockey Canada and youth organizations to mandate and enforce neck protection.

The Associated Press contributed to this post.