Death of former UMD hockey player prompts athletes at all levels to seek out neck guards
A moment of silence is planned before the Minnesota Gophers men’s hockey team takes the ice Friday against the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in Minneapolis, paying tribute to former UMD player Adam Johnson.
Johnson, 29, died last weekend after suffering a skate blade cut to the neck during a professional hockey game in England.
“You’re not human if you don’t go out there and think about it,” Bulldogs captain Luke Loheit said.
Johnson’s death has weighed heavily on the UMD athletic program and the hockey community in the days since.
Loheit, who is from Minnetonka, asked UMD hockey about getting a protective neck guard.
“I think it will be important for us to make a statement,” Loheit said about younger hockey players seeing the neck guards being worn. “It’s a freak accident, it doesn’t happen very much. You never know, you can’t be too careful.”
The Gophers hockey program placed an order for neck guards for players earlier this week.
“We’ve ordered them, at least we are going to have them available if guys want to wear them,” Gophers head coach Bob Motzko said.
Johnson’s death has all levels of the hockey game talking about neck guards, and that includes the National Hockey League, where they are not required.
NHL officials said earlier this week they’ve reached out to the players association regarding discussions about the use cut cut-resistant materials and guards.
Johnson’s fatal accident led Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie, who is from Warroad, to wear a protective neck guard during his team’s game Thursday against the New York Islanders.
“I didn’t notice it after one shift,” Oshie said in a postgame interview. “I made it my choice for my kids. I want to stick around for them.”
Oshie wore a neck guard that is made by his apparel company, Warroad, which makes hockey equipment, including cut-resistant protective gear.
Back on the ice, the Bulldogs plan to carry their memory of Johnson with them this season and beyond.
“Glorifying him, glorifying his life through our work, this week and rest of year,” Loheit said. “We’ll continue to think about him in whatever we do.”
UMD will be wearing “AJ” stickers on their helmets.