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Hockey Manitoba to discuss further neck guard mandates in wake of player's death


More mandates regarding the use of neck guards could be a topic Hockey Manitoba discusses further following the death of a former NHLer whose neck was cut during a game in England.

While playing in a game with the Nottingham Panthers in the Elite Ice Hockey League, 29-year-old Adam Johnson – who played 13 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL – was cut in the neck by a skate and later died from his injury.

Since the incident, the conversation around more safety for players has been sparked throughout the hockey world, including here in Manitoba.

Under Hockey Manitoba's regulations, it is mandatory for all players under 18 to wear a neck guard as part of their uniform, but in junior and senior leagues the protective equipment is only recommended.

Peter Woods, the executive director of Hockey Manitoba, said looking at enhancing safety measures for those older age groups will be something that is discussed.

"As a sports governing body that oversees hockey, certainly in this province and as a member of Hockey Canada, it's our responsibility and obligation to ensure that the game can be played with the highest standards of safety in mind," said Woods.

Some changes have already started elsewhere. The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League's Saanich Predators have made it mandatory for all players to wear a neck guard during the game.

Canada hockey legend and Toronto Maple Leafs assistant general manager Hayley Wickenheiser has also said neck protection should be mandatory for all levels of hockey.

Woods said safety is always a topic that is discussed throughout a hockey season and measures are reviewed all the time.

"It's not something that is just a reaction, reactionary, but always stepping forward to put our players in the most safe environment that they can possibly be in."

The discourse has made its way into NHL dressing rooms as well, as neck guards are not currently mandated in the NHL.

"I think the leagues and players will re-evaluate and then think about that extra level of protection for sure," said Josh Morrissey before the Winnipeg Jets game on Monday.

There isn't a specific timeline for when discussions will happen and if rule changes will be put in place for Hockey Manitoba, but Woods noted rule adjustments can happen either during the semi-annual or annual meetings.

There is also the winter meeting with Hockey Canada in November and Woods knows more will be discussed there.

"So when we talk about the safety and how do we improve the safety within our sport, and it's very topical right now, I'm sure there'll be some discussion that will be going in that direction," said Woods. Top Stories

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