Sun. May 26th, 2024
Floral tributes have been left outside Nottingham Panthers Motorpoint Arena following the death of Adam Johnson

The English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA) says it will be mandatory to wear a neck guard during “all on-ice activities” from 2024 onwards.

Johnson died after suffering a serious cut to his neck from a skate during Saturday’s Challenge Cup match against the Sheffield Steelers.

BBC Sport understands Johnson was not wearing a neck guard.

Players in the UK are allowed to play without neck guards once they turn 18.

The EIHA, which oversees all levels of ice hockey in the England below the Elite League – the top division of ice hockey in the UK which Johnson played in – also said their “strong recommendation” is that all players wear neck guards with immediate effect, to “ensure that a tragic incident of this nature never befalls our sport again”.

It is unclear whether the Elite League will also adopt the EIHA’s guidelines.

“It is unacceptable for any player to lose their life while playing sport,” said the EIHA.

“Our responsibility is not only to avert the recurrence of such a heart-breaking accident, but also to pre-emptively address other foreseeable incidents in the future.

“We bear both a legal and a moral obligation to respond in a measured and pragmatic way. There is a distinct likelihood that comprehensive evaluations will transpire at the international level, and the EIHA is committed to taking an active and constructive role in this process.”

The EIHA said neck guards are not immediately mandatory due to “anticipated supply issues”. They also said a full review of all player safety equipment will take place over the next 12 months.

Scottish Ice Hockey and Ice Hockey UK – which runs the Great Britain national team – already make neck guards mandatory.

Johnson’s fiancee paid tribute to her “sweet angel” on Monday as police continue to investigate his death.

Coach addresses fans after ice hockey player’s death

Neck guard stigma ‘needs to change’

Attitudes towards neck guards in ice hockey “need to change” following Johnson’s death, according to Great Britain international Abbie Culshaw.

Before the EIHA announcement, English third-tier side Oxford City Stars said they would make neck protection mandatory for their players and staff.

“They’re considered annoying and if you’ve got a neck guard you’re still seen as like a junior,” Culshaw – also a forward for Whitley Bay and the Bradford Bulldogs – said.

Asked by BBC Newsbeat about the stigma of wearing neck protection, she added players would “wind up” or “call out” others for wearing a guard, and “belittle” them.

“Some people do wear them for their own safety but the majority of people don’t if they don’t have to,” she said.

“It does bug you and it irritates your neck. So as soon as people are 18 they can’t wait to get rid of it. I hope for everyone’s sake that what has happened has changed what people think.

“Then it just becomes this common thing, that people have them on and it’s not seen as like a segregation from the men to the juniors. I hope it does change because it needs to.”

Speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, Oxford City Stars director of hockey operations Shane Moore said: “When you come to 18 there’s a stigma around wearing your neck guard and face cage, it’s almost like to be a man you have to remove those.

“It’s not the right way to be, player safety must come first.

“The skates are sharp and that’s why the neck guards are so important.”

What are the rules on neck guards around the world?

Compulsory guards are already in place in the likes of Finland and Sweden, while Germany’s top flight, the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, is also reportedly considering their introduction external-linkfor the new season.

USA Hockey has also previously recommendedexternal-link their blanket use due to concerns about “neck lacerations and the potential catastrophic involvement of arteries, veins and nerves”.

However, current regulations mean they are not obligatory across all leagues.

Oxford City Stars, who have former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech on their roster and compete in the National Ice Hockey League South Division One, hope their announcement will push “for enhanced safety standards across the sport”.

In a statement they added: “We encourage other clubs to also offer these neck guards to their players. At our level of play, we strongly believe that these guards should be worn by all players.”

Analysis – should neck guards be obligatory?

Ice hockey commentator Seth Bennett, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live

It was just a moment that has left the sport globally devastated. It was an incident that you hope you never ever have to see.

Ice hockey is a very big family sport and there will be a lot of kids asking a lot of questions and trying to come to terms with what they saw on Saturday evening.

I think there will be a conversation at league level but they are governed by the international Ice Hockey Federation and they have not made great moves to improve safety in this particular aspect because it happens so very rarely.

At 18 players ditch their neck guards and full face masks and go to wearing half visors and when you sit here after such an awful event, you shrug your shoulders and say ‘why?’.

But if you put it down to a players vote right now not very many would be voting to wear a neck guard in their next game.

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