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After Friend's Death, Wayland Teen Wants Neck Guards Mandatory For Youth Hockey Players

WAYLAND (CBS) - Sam Brande is on a mission to make a change. "I want to be able to make a change because of what happened to one of my good friends," Brande said.

The 16-year-old lost his childhood friend, Teddy Balkind, in a tragic fatal hockey incident earlier this month. Teddy was struck by the skate of another player in the junior varsity game in Connecticut. "A skate was kicked up and his neck was cut," Brande said. "He was a close friend of mine and we went to sleep away camp together for a number of years."

This incident devastated the entire hockey community and really hit home to Sam who describes Teddy as positive and funny. "He put others before him everything he did and he'd rather see you succeed than himself," Brande said.

Sam Brande
Sam Brande (WBZ-TV)

There have been other incidents similar to Teddy's over the years. In 2008, Florida Panthers player Richard Zednick almost lost his life when a skate of one of his teammates cut his throat badly on the ice.

"I want to make sure that out of what happened we are not just losing a hockey player, we are getting something positive out of it," Brande said.

Sam is now petitioning USA Hockey to make neck guards mandatory for youth sports. "I am going to do my best to get the rule changed to force players to wear neck guards. USA hockey says it's a strong recommendation but there's no requirement yet," Brande said.

Sam's petition to make neck guards mandatory is taking off. He already has 96,000 signatures and growing. He says he's doing it not only in honor of his friend but also so parents will feel more comfortable the next their kids go on the ice.

Teddy Balkind
Teddy Balkind (Image credit Camp Awosting)

"I'm trying to make hockey safer for future players and younger players and I'm trying to make parents feel better about sending their kid out on the ice because after this happens it is scary for a parent," he said.

Sam says because of what happened and his petition, most of his hockey teammates have already gone out and purchased neck guards and many have written Teddy's initial on their sticks. "I think it would mean a lot to Teddy and I know it means a lot to the family. My end goal is to see hockey to be as safe as can be and one step towards that is forcing all players to wear neck guards," he said.

And as he mourns the death of his friend, Sam says Teddy is still teaching him valuable lessons off the ice. "If you want something to change be the one to change it. You don't have to wait for someone else to do it because it probably won't happen," Brande said.

He hopes people will go to and sign his petition and share it with others.

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