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Death of hockey player Adam Johnson puts neck guards into new focus

While some organizations mandate certain pieces of safety equipment like masks, pads and certain guards, neck guards aren't always mandated.
Death of hockey player Adam Johnson puts neck guards into new focus
Posted at 8:47 PM, Oct 30, 2023

The tragic death of the American hockey player Adam Johnson on Saturday is highlighting an issue in sports safety that may need improvement: mandating the use of neck guards for hockey players.

Neck guards are not a new piece of safety equipment for many, including sports equipment stores.

"It's just another piece of equipment that can eventually save a life," said Milos Host, the owner of Hockey Locker in Milwaukee. 

Host has sold them for years in his store. After Johnson's death, neck guards are now back in the debate on sports safety.

"We talked about it last night, and I said you gotta wear a neck guard," Host explains. He is now making his daughter wear one. She plays for the Milwaukee Junior Admirals.

"Everything else you have to wear, elbow pads, shin pads, all that kind of stuff, but this is to me very important," Host said.

USA Hockey is the national governing body over amateur hockey in the U.S., and neck guards are not mandated, but they are recommended.

"For me, safety has been very important, from top down ... mask to neck guard ... pads, everything else," parent Steve Peterson said. 

SEE MORE: Former NHL player dies in 'freak accident' during hockey game

Peterson's son is a goalie for a team called the Vipers in Illinois. He says his son has always worn a neck guard. "As a goalie, definitely, he's on the bottom of a lot of piles," he said. 

As far as professional hockey goes, neck guards are not mandatory there either. The Nashville Predators affiliate team — the Milwaukee Admirals — follows that guidance.

"Our goalies may wear a little extra equipment there, more for puck protection. Cause obviously pucks are flying there, sticks are flying in there, but we don't have any position players that are doing it," said Jon Greenberg, the president of the Milwaukee Admirals. Greenberg says they do mandate wrist guards and cut-proof socks. 

"Those areas are far more likely to have somebody with a skate get near you," he said. 

Host says that the weight of skates has actually changed over the years, and it has changed the game. 

"You can get hurt a lot quicker than back in the day."

The Southeastern Hockey Association of Wisconsin says neck guards are not mandatory, but highly encouraged.

This story was originally published by Megan Lee at Scripps News Milwaukee

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