USA Hockey’s safety committee considers neck guard rule change
The hockey community across the country continues to discuss protective neck guards after professional hockey player Adam Johnson, from Hibbing, suffered a deadly cut to his neck from an opponent’s skate blade.
“Ever since the accident, I think we’ve been selling 20-40 a day,” said Steve Younghans, at Strauss Skates & Bicycles in Maplewood. “When we’re checking people out, we ask them how they are doing, what they think about it and try to make sure they go home with one.”
Younghans, who is also the hockey coach at Johnson High School in St. Paul, said the team will be wearing neck protectors this season.
USA Hockey’s Safety and Protective Equipment Committee is currently crafting proposals for discussion with amateur and youth hockey’s legislative board. That could include suggesting a possible rule change to require all players to wear neck guards, according to committee chair and chief medical and safety officer Dr. Michael Stuart.
“We are currently in the process of consulting medical experts, evaluating the available science,” Stuart said of the committee that is in an advisory role for USA Hockey. “We will propose very soon our recommendation for a possible rule change.”
USA Hockey currently recommends — but does not require — neck laceration protectors for players that cover as much of the neck as possible, and the use of cut-resistant socks, sleeves, and undergarments.
Stuart said in the coming days a key meeting is planned with the Hockey Equipment Certification Council, or HECC, to discuss creating a possible new standard for cut-resistant protective material.
HECC, a nonprofit safety group, creates the safety standards for equipment that USA Hockey and the National Federation of State High School Associations require players to use while on the ice.
HECC does not currently certify neck laceration protection or cut-resistant socks, sleeves or undergarments, according to USA Hockey.
“We are working diligently to try and come up with not only rules but effective rules by making sure that this equipment has been properly manufactured, tested, certified,” Stuart said.
Hockey-specific testing is critical for products, according to Stuart, to replicate how a blade could hit various materials at different angles and forces. Hockey Canada currently requires players to wear cut-protective neck guards that are certified with the BNQ seal after the deaths of youth hockey players back in the 1980s.