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Ice Hockey Federation to enforce neckwear after player dies from cut skate

Pittsburgh Penguins and Anaheim Geese players observe a second of silence following the death of former Penguins player Adam Johnson, before their game at the PPG PAINTS Area on October 30, 2023 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Harrison Barden/Getty Pictures/AFP

The Ice Hockey World Federation announced Monday that it is making neck guards mandatory for all levels of competitors in tournaments it organizes, including the Olympics and the men’s and women’s world championships.

The mandate would not apply to professional leagues, including the NHL, which currently has no ironclad safety standards for players. Any type of mandate within the NHL would require a settlement between the league and the players’ union, who have discussed skate blade safety for years.

This decision by the IIHF comes after the death of American Adam Johnson, whose neck was cut by a skate blade during a match in England at the end of October. Johnson’s death at the age of 29 remains under investigation and the on-ice tragedy sparked significant debate in the sport about the need for increased neck, wrist and leg safety.

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The precise date when the IIHF’s neck gaiter mandate comes into effect remains to be determined, primarily based on the availability of accessible neck gaiters.

“The IIHF remains in close contact with its suppliers to ensure they can meet the current high demand,” the group said. “Until the rule officially goes into effect, the IIHF continues to strongly suggest that all players participating in IIHF competition wear neck laceration protection.”

In the past, the IIHF initially had neck safety rules restricted to under-20 and under-18 players. Neck guards were therefore already compulsory in tournaments like the Junior World Championship. The organization that governs hockey worldwide decided to expand the order primarily based on advice from its medical committee.

The English Ice Hockey Association, which governs the Elite League sport where Johnson played, responded to his death by requiring all England players to wear neck guards from 2024. As did the IIHF, the mandate was not immediate. due to provide points.

NHL vice president of hockey operations Rod Pasma spoke to base managers last month about anti-cut tools. Pasma said players have many more options than a decade ago, including 10 or more options for wrist, body and Achilles tendon/foot safety, but fewer options for neck protector.

“In the neck, we’re getting there,” Pasma said. “A few months ago we didn’t have one, but as it is today, I think there are up to eight companies on my table waiting to be authorized, and of those eight, there are probably 12 to 14 options to implement, if they choose.

Several NHL players, including Washington’s TJ Oshie and Tampa Bay’s Cole Koepke, have donned neck guards for games this season in light of Johnson’s death.

“The NHL guys, I think it’s extremely important that they understand that this will be accessible,” Oshie said. “We are grown men. If you don’t need to do it, you don’t do it. Anyway now, in the middle of the season, I don’t know if it’s necessary to make it compulsory, but you can make your individual decisions. I made my choice for my children. I have to stay away from them. Just trying to reduce the risk of harm.

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