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Hockey player’s accidental death stokes safety talks about neck guards

SAUGUS, Mass. — Many hockey parents are aware of what’s being called a freak accident that killed a player over the weekend. It has reignited talk about neck guards.

Kids under ten enjoyed their ice hockey lesson in Saugus. At this young age, strapping on skates means trying not to fall, but their coaches are already teaching how to safely skate through hockey. “If it’s sliding into the boards, it’s keep your head up. As far as being stepped on, if you can get up, get up,” said Stephen MacAdams. MacAdams is the program director of the Valley Junior Warriors, and long-time hockey player and coach.

“I think everyone is aware of it. You just never think it will happen,” said MacAdams. What happened was an extremely rare accident. Over the weekend, former NHL player Adam Johnson was killed during his game in England when a skate sliced his throat. The players were not wearing neck guards.

“There’s been a debate about it for a long, long time. What if the skate blade gets stuck in the neck guard. I don’t know if there is a right or wrong answer. It could be a good precaution to use,” said MacAdams.

Neck guards are not required for hockey players in the U.S.

While growing up in Canada, Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery played with a teen who was killed by a skate to the neck. Neck guards there became mandatory.

“It is hard to get used to it and I think it is a personal choice because as soon as I got out of Quebec and got into college hockey, I took it off. I felt it restrained me,” said Jim Montgomery, Bruins head coach. “The thing is, it moves up and down maybe it’s not protecting you right where you need to be protected anyways.

As a result of Johnson’s death, the English ice hockey association is requiring players to wear neck guards beginning next year.

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