Tampa Bay area high school hockey league mandating neck guards

After the skate blade incident that killed former NHL player Adam Johnson, hockey’s state governing body is making neck protection a requirement.
Lightning High School Hockey League players will be required to wear neck protection starting in 2024.
Lightning High School Hockey League players will be required to wear neck protection starting in 2024. [ CA ECCLES/EARTH-LIFE STUDIOS | Courtesy of the LHSHL ]
Published Nov. 2|Updated Nov. 2

TAMPA — The Lightning High School Hockey League is mandating neck guards for all players beginning Jan. 1, 2024, following the death of former NHL player Adam Johnson after his throat was cut by a skate blade.

The league — which consists of a 20-team varsity division representing area high schools, as well as junior varsity and development divisions, and is governed by Statewide Amateur Hockey of Florida — approved a mandatory neck guard rule Wednesday.

The Jan. 1 date allows time to purchase neck protection, since the equipment is expected to be in high demand, but the recommendation is for all players to wear neck guards immediately for games as well as practices. Local hockey rink equipment retailer Rinkside Sports — which has locations at the TGH Ice Plex in Brandon, AdventHealth Center Ice in Wesley Chapel and Lakeland Ice Arena — has guards in stock and is ordering more.

“We are asking that everyone take the necessary precautions to prevent this freak accident from happening to one of our players,” Statewide Amateur Hockey of Florida executive director Steve Lynch wrote in a memo to players, parents and officials.

“... Supply for this protection is in high demand. We ask that all players do their best to acquire this protection as soon as possible. If you have extra, please share with teammates that haven’t been able to acquire the neck protection.”

The mandate will be in effect for all USA Hockey-sanctioned events, including state high school games.

Johnson was playing in a Champions Cup game Saturday in England’s Elite Ice Hockey League when his neck was cut by the skate of Matt Petgrave. Petgrave’s skates went high in the air after he made contact with another player just inside the blue line.

The NHL has no neck guard requirements but has moved to push the conversation of neck protection to the forefront with the players association. Minor hockey in Canada requires neck guards, as do the major junior hockey leagues in Ontario and Quebec.

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