It's never a good thing when neck guards are on the minds of hockey players, parents and coaches — because it usually means tragedy struck.
And this weekend, it did. In a game Saturday between the Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers in England, Panthers forward Adam Johnson died after taking a skate to the neck in what the team called a "freak accident." Johnson was from Hibbing, Minn., played his college hockey at Minnesota Duluth and spent time in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He was 29.
Unfortunately, New England knows tragedy like this all too well.
In January 2022, Teddy Balkind, a 16-year-old sophomore at St. Luke's, died after taking a skate to the neck in a junior varsity game against Brunswick.
The deaths have those around the hockey world thinking about neck guards. The English Ice Hockey Association, the league Johnson played in, mandated players at all levels of English Ice Hockey wear neck guards beginning Jan. 1. The Western Hockey League, a major junior level, will require neck guards beginning on Friday.
There are questions about what the NHL and other professional leagues in the United States might do. The same goes for the NCAA.
Prep hockey could be next to follow.