Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Morris Prokop

IN FAVOUR OF NECK GUARDS – Patrick Greenland, seen here at the Canada Games Centre recently, said he’s planning on wearing a neck guard in the future.

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Photo by Morris Prokop

NATURAL NECK GUARD – The man known as ‘Mike’, seen here at the Canada Games Centre recently, said wearing a neck guard is uncomfortable.

Mixed reactions to wearing neck guards in Whitehorse

In late October, the hockey world was struck by the tragedy of former NHL player Adam Johnson when his neck was cut by an opponent.

By Diego Brisebois-Bourget on November 27, 2023

In late October, the hockey world was struck by the tragedy of former NHL player Adam Johnson when his neck was cut by an opponent.

Johnson, 29, was playing for the Nottingham Panthers against the Sheffield Steelers in a Champions Cup game in England on Oct. 28 when a skate blade cut his neck. Police subsequently arrested Matt Petgrave on suspicion of manslaughter.

The Star spoke to multiple people about their thoughts on the matter recently.

When we asked a man who only referred to himself as Mike what his thoughts were on neck protection, he said. “The problem with neck protection is that it traps heat. Thatʼs the main problem with neck guards and why most people don’t wear them. I have been thinking about it but whether Iʼll actually go out to get one and wear it during hockey play is a different matter. Iʼd need some time to try it out.

“Of course itʼs sad that this happened to somebody. I heard a recent interview with Wayne Gretzky whoʼs talking about how kids these days have to use neck guards and how theyʼve been doing it their entire lives but again, itʼs the heat trapping issue thatʼs a concern. I get hot really fast and I sweat quite heavily when I play so the neck guard would make that worse.”

When he was asked about the importance of players wearing neck guards in the future, he said, “One of the things to consider is that it is very rare to have to a skate to the neck. It does happen, but it is a very rare occasion so I mean you could argue itʼs a useful prevention measure, it doesn’t have a high cost and it doesnʼt really inconvenience the players that much.”

Zack Seguin said that it was unexpected and that he will be wearing a neck guard moving forward. Patrick Greenland shared the same opinion as Zack and said, “It never even crossed my mind for that to happen but Iʼm definitely wearing one now.”

Tom Ullyett has been playing hockey and wearing a neck guard for over 20 years.

“Sometimes it takes a tragedy to raise awareness. It’s unfortunate but certainly in the hockey world, either North America or Europe, awareness has been raised once again that neck guards should be a mandatory piece of equipment. Many players have worn them for a long time and it’s interesting that it takes a horrific situation for our sport to improve the quality of the protective equipment.”

He went on to explain how visors were barely used 20 years ago but nowadays everybody uses them. “Hopefully, this will move us ahead in terms of our thinking about protecting a vital part of your body. I’m no doctor but you can bleed to death in a heck of a hurry if you get sliced in your neck, so I’ve worn a neck guard for many years. I play in the Whitehorse Oldtimers Hockey League, terrific league but even there, your neck is at risk, people fall down, you fall down, maybe a bit of a scramble in front of the net, players’ legs and arms flying around. Bodies going in different directions.

“It’s not hard to imagine a skate striking a part of another player’s body so I very much hope that the tragedy in England moves us forward but not just on an individual level thinking about protecting your neck are but at a more strategic level, at a league level. There’s at least one league in Canada that has now made neck guards mandatory so I’m hoping that that wave will happen.”

Ullyett hopes to see his peers in the WOHL wear neck guards.

“I hope that Iʼll see more neck guards this season; I would love it if they became mandatory whether it be in the rec league, in the womenʼs leagues too – although women are a bit smarter than men when it comes to protecting themselves.

“Iʼm hoping that this moves us ahead and that it doesnʼt take another tragedy to rethink about what weʼre doing.”

Matt Petgrave was recently released on bail.

The English Hockey Association released a statement saying they strongly advise players to wear a neck guard going forward.

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