Twenty-nine-year-old American hockey player Johnson died at the end of October after being hit in the neck by a skate in a British Cup match. The player with NHL experience defended the colors of Nottingham this season, but he played the entire last year in Germany for the Augsburg team. His tragic death became an impetus for the management of competitions and the players themselves to deal with this issue all over the world.
“We came together for a sad cause, but our discussion produced a good result,” DEL chief executive Gernot Tripcke told Sportschau television. “We are doing what we can. And we hope that it will prevent an accident in the future,” added Tripcke.
The new regulation should ideally be introduced as early as January 1, subject to the availability of cut-resistant protective equipment. Representatives of the players’ association SVE also took part in Monday’s meeting. In the survey, the vast majority of them spoke in favor of introducing mandatory neck protection. Previously, only players under the age of 18 had to wear neck guards.
The management of the extra league is also evaluating the possibilities of a similar measure. In response to Johnson’s death, the overseas junior competition WHL, for example, has already adjusted its rules, ordering players to wear neck protectors from November 1. It will be mandatory in the British competition from January 1. The Pittsburgh Penguins, for whom Johnson played in the past, have made it mandatory for their minor league teams to wear protective gear, effective immediately.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh also began discussing possible rule changes. In the lower leagues of the AHL and ECHL, players have been required to wear cut wrist and ankle protectors since last season.