USA Hockey makes neck laceration protection mandatory for all players under the age of 18, the latest development following the death of a player in England from a neck skate that reignited the debate over anti-collar gear -cuts in this sport.
The new rule takes effect August 1, a timeline that takes into account delays in the supply chain and production of the neck guards. The decision announced on Sunday comes three months after the death of American Adam Johnson after receiving a skate blade to the neck during an Elite Ice Hockey League match.
The International Ice Hockey Federation has since made it mandatory for players of all levels to wear neck collars during tournaments it organizes.
USA Hockey’s decision comes after its convention approved the mandate, which also includes on-ice officials under the age of 18 and all 19-year-old players at the boys, girls or junior level, at its annual meeting. The sport’s governing body in the United States also said it strongly recommends adults wear neck protection.
“I know across our organization the majority opinion was that the time had come to change our rules regarding protection against neck lacerations,” USA Hockey Executive Director Pat Kelleher said. “We are also encouraged that the hockey industry is committed to continuing to work to improve cut-resistant products that protect players to help create the safest playing environment possible.”
American junior hockey has also been hit by on-ice tragedy in recent years. Teddy Balkind, 16, a high school senior from Connecticut, died two years ago after suffering a cut skate on his neck during a game.
USA Hockey has long recommended cut-resistant socks, sleeves and underwear, as well as neck protection. Its board of directors asked the Safety and Protective Equipment Committee in November to begin the process of recommending potential changes to the rules on protection against neck lacerations.
“Safety is always first”
“Safety is always at the forefront of our conversations and our convention’s action today reflects that,” said USA Hockey President Mike Trimboli. “We appreciate the important work done by our Safety and Protective Equipment Committee, led by Dr. Mike Stuart, and the many others who were instrumental in the overall evaluation process.
Stuart, in a telephone interview with The Associated Press late last year, said he had been trying to work on this topic long before Balkind and Johnson died.
“For a long time I have been advocating and trying to work with companies on effective, cut-resistant underwear that would protect these vulnerable anatomical areas,” Stuart said, referring not only to the neck but also the upper arm, on the wrist and thigh. and ankle/Achilles tendon areas. “We need to take advantage of this opportunity to not only demand or mandate, but also test, certify and offer these devices that are not only effective but comfortable and do not restrict that range of motion and are not prohibitively expensive.”
The NHL currently has no such mandate for players. Officials continue to discuss the issue of cut-resistant equipment, which would require an agreement between the league and the union.
Defenseman Erik Karlsson, a three-time Norris Trophy winner, had his left Achilles tendon severed by a skate blade during an NHL game in 2013, an injury that required surgery and ended in its season. Winger Evander Kane missed the game two months after being cut by a skate on his left wrist.