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'The Unthinkable Happened:' Long Island Family Thankful For Hockey Neck Guard That Saved Teen's Life

MASSAPEQUA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Hockey is filled with hits and falls, and without the proper equipment, it can be deadly.

As CBS2's Steve Overmyer reports, one Long Island family has a seriously close call.

Hockey players know that getting cut by a skate is an occupational hazard. That's why they are covered from head to toe with protective gear. Right now, that equipment has this family feeling very thankful.

When it's time to lace up the skates, Jake Karant never forgets his neck guard.

"If I wasn't wearing a neck guard, I don't know where I'd be right now," he tells Overmyer.

Jake has been playing hockey since he was eight years old. Just 10 days ago, the high school freshman's life took a serious turn.

"He crashed into a player trying to get down the ice with the puck. They both went down, and in a split second the unthinkable happened," Jake's mother, Kim Karant, says.

"His skate came up and it scraped down my cage and then hit me here," the 15-year-old says. "I didn't think it was bleeding, and then I looked down and I saw blood on my jersey. So I grabbed my neck and skated off as fast as I could."

Jake's coach is a former FDNY. When he saw the cut, his training kicked in.

"When I removed his neck guard, it was about an inch and a half gash just below the jawline, and it was pretty deep. It was pretty deep," coach Bob Trivigno says.

Just how close was this to being a crisis situation?

"He missed an artery by two millimeters," Kim says. "Had he not been wearing the neck guard, I don't think he'd be with us today."

"If that neck guard – all it had to do was impede that cut by two millimeters, and that saved his life," Trivigno says.

The skate creates an ever present danger. Blades are sharpened to a razor's edge, but even they can't cut through the Kevlar of a neck guard.

"The thought of that skate cutting them anywhere is daunting, but you never expect something that could potentially be deadly," Kim says.

Overmyer: "You spent 21 years in the NYPD, you've seen some pretty rough stuff. How different was this?"

Keith: "It's a little different when it's your kid."

Ten days and a few stitches later, Jake was back on the ice for his high school team, skating his way towards the future.

"Now I look at every day now – don't take it for granted, you know? Thank God every night," Jake says.

"It's a $20 piece of equipment, and if you ask any hockey parent, it's probably the cheapest piece of equipment you can buy," Keith says. But it might be the most important."

Overmyer contacted New York, New Jersey and Connecticut state athletic associations, and they all said neck guards are mandatory equipment for any player. It's up to the referees, coaches and parents to enforce the rule.

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