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Neck guards mandated for all high school hockey players after Adam Johnson's death

Neck guards now required for all high school hockey players
Neck guards now required for all high school hockey players 00:17

MINNEAPOLIS — All high school hockey players in the United States will have to wear neck protectors next season in the aftermath of a Minnesotan's death.

The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) announced the mandate on Thursday.

Players must wear the protector at all times, according to the NFHS. If it falls off during gameplay, the player must return to their bench and put it back on before returning to the ice.

Goalies must also wear the guards in addition to their existing throat protectors. Any modifications made to the protector will lead to possible penalties.

If a player refuses to wear one, NFHS says gameplay will be stopped and that player will be issued a two-minute minor penalty.  


The Minnesota State High School League released this statement on Friday confirming it will adhere to the new rule:

The Minnesota State High School League believes that risk minimization and the health and safety of all student-participants is imperative. Historically, the League has strongly recommended neck laceration protectors in hockey, and the League's Sports Medicine Advisory Committee is in full support of this NFHS rules change. This rules change aligns the Federation and League safety measures with other governing bodies, such as USA Hockey, to ensure the health and safety of all participants.

The rule comes about seven months after the death of Hibbing native Adam Johnson. The 29-year-old suffered a fatal laceration to the throat during a game in the United Kingdom on Oct. 28, 2023.

Johnson was playing with the Nottingham Panthers in England's Elite Ice Hockey League in a game against the Sheffield Steelers when he died in what the Panthers described as a "freak accident."

Hockey England Player Dies
Adam Johnson during his time with the Pittsburgh Penguins Paul Vernon / AP

Matt Petgrave, 31, was the Steeler whose skate killed Johnson. Petgrave collided with another Panther in the Steelers' defensive zone. As Petgrave fell backward, the blade of his left skate slashed Johnson.

Petgrave was arrested weeks after the accident on suspicion of manslaughter. He was released on bail and hasn't been formally charged with any crime. He continues to play with the Steelers.

Before moving to the U.K., Johnson played for two seasons with the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs before signing with the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Panthers have since retired Johnson's number 47 jersey.

The English Ice Hockey Association also moved to require all players to wear protectors.

USA Hockey made a similar mandate in January for players under 18, which goes into effect this summer.

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