Hockey Needs Better Protective Equipment – says Player who Survived Neck Slash

Adam Johnson who tragically died as the result of his neck being slashed during a game. Image courtesy of Getty images.

Last Sunday, hockey player Ike Werner narrowly escaped a potential tragedy when a skate blade came dangerously close to his neck during a game. Incidents like his have prompted players to reconsider their safety measures on the ice.

For both fans and players, Werner’s incident brings to mind a tragic event from late last year when former NHL player Adam Johnson lost his life after a skate blade sliced his neck during a game.

This time, history repeated itself with a more fortunate outcome. Werner, engaged in his regular Sunday game, had a player’s skate come up and across his neck. Remarkably, he had no recollection of the incident, only discovering the injury when a friend pointed it out in the change room after the game.

Werner’s stroke of luck continued as his recreational league played at The Ford Performance Centre, adjacent to the NHL team The Leafs’ practice space. Realising the severity of the cut, he was ushered into the Leafs’ medical room, where their trained staff, Neil Davidson and Paul Ayotte, attended to the wound. As they treated him, Werner reflected on Adam Johnson’s fatal accident, emphasising the serious thoughts that crossed his mind during the ordeal.

The incident has sparked discussions about the need for enhanced protective equipment for hockey players. Werner, contemplating this immediately after the accident, emphasises the importance of creating gear, including helmets and pads, that not only safeguards against impacts but also offers cut-proof protection.

Former NHL player Carlo Colaiacovo’s experience with his teammate Claude Giroux’s leg injury in 2015 led to the adoption of cut-proof socks for all players by the Philadelphia team’s general manager, Ron Hextall.

Werner, still grappling with the psychological impact of the incident, underscores the necessity of prioritising safety on the ice. He hopes his story serves as a cautionary tale and encourages players to adopt additional protective measures, such as neck guards.

While many leagues may not mandate neck guards, Werner advocates for individual choices in the interest of personal safety. Notably, USA Hockey has already implemented a neck guard mandate for players under 18, effective since August 1, just three months after Adam Johnson’s tragic death.

The call for increased protection extends beyond individual efforts, as Chief Medical Officer for USA Hockey, Dr. Michael Stuart, notes a growing market for protective gear. He encourages companies to ramp up production, emphasising the need for innovative designs and materials to enhance player safety on the ice.