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Adam Johnson’s former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, make neck protection gear MANDATORY for its minor-league players in the wake of his tragic death in freak on-ice accident


  • Johnson, 29, played 13 NHL games for Pittsburgh in 2018-19 & 2019-20 seasons
  • WHL, AHL and other ECHL affiliates, mandated neck guards for players this week
  • DailyMail.com provides all the latest international sports news 

Adam Johnson’s former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, have made neck protection gear mandatory for its minor-league players in the wake of the center’s tragic death in a freak on-ice accident. 

Johnson, who spent three seasons with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the AHL, played 13 NHL games for Pittsburgh in two separate stints in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. 

Pittsburgh’s NHL club is also evaluating further safety options. 

‘We’re in the process right now of trying to talk to our players about some protective equipment in those vulnerable areas,’ Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan told reporters this week, referring to neck and wrist injuries. 

Sullivan added that he and club officials will ‘strongly encourage’ players to wear neck guards, and that the Penguins don’t have the authority to issue a mandate at league level. 

The Pittsburgh Penguins - Adam Johnson's former team - made neck guards mandatory for its minor league players on Wednesday

The Pittsburgh Penguins – Adam Johnson’s former team – made neck guards mandatory for its minor league players on Wednesday 

Neck guards are in high-demand and selling out fast, according to T.J. Oshie, of the Capitals

Neck guards are in high-demand and selling out fast, according to T.J. Oshie, of the Capitals

New options for NHL players to protect themselves in areas that aren’t always necessarily covered is ultimately what Sullivan wants to see emerge in the long haul. 

‘That could be one of the positive things that might come out of this terrible tragedy,’ he said.

The Western Hockey League (WHL) announced on Wednesday the adoption of mandatory neck guard protection for all players, effective on Friday, November 3. 

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and Players’ Association executive director Marty Walsh touched based earlier this week in the immediate aftermath of Johnson’s death to set up further talks between the league and union. 

For several years the two sides have been studying skate cut injuries and how to reduce and avoid them, and now the topic has taken on greater urgency at various levels of the sport.

‘We’re going to explore everything,’ Walsh said Wednesday. ‘We have to continue to have conversations on this as we move forward here. It’s a change for the players, but it’s also about protecting them, so I think we will have those conversations as we move forward here.’ 

Johnson, 29, died at hospital after being cut in the neck by a skate blade during a EIHL game

Johnson, 29, died at hospital after being cut in the neck by a skate blade during a EIHL game

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and other senior officials 'will explore everything' regarding the addition of safety gear, for hockey players to better protect themselves in uncovered areas

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and other senior officials ‘will explore everything’ regarding the addition of safety gear, for hockey players to better protect themselves in uncovered areas

Johnson, a 29-year-old from Minnesota, died at a hospital after being cut in the neck by the skate blade of an opponent during a game Saturday night in the Elite Ice Hockey League. The league called it a ‘freak accident,’ and South Yorkshire Police have said they are investigating. 

The incident already has had an impact across the Atlantic Ocean, with the American Hockey League and ECHL, mandating neck guards for players. The AHL and ECHL mandated cut-resistant wrist and foot/ankle protection last summer, in consultation with the Professional Hockey Players’ Association. 

The English Ice Hockey Association announced it would mandate neck guards beginning January 1, 2024, citing possible supply issues. 

T.J. Oshie of the NHL’s Washington Capitals said the apparel and equipment company he co-owns already has run out of its entire supply of cut-resistant neck protection. 





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