Penguins announce organizational neck guard mandate
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Penguins announce organizational neck guard mandate

The first NHL team to take a stance in the wake of Adam Johnson's tragic death.



The hockey world continues to mourn the loss of former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Adam Johnson. Johnson, of course,  tragically passed away after suffering an accidental skate cut to the throat in a EIHL game while playing for the Nottingham Panthers.

The 29 year old played 13 total games for the Penguins between 2018 and 2020, spending the majority of his time in the organization with the team's AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins.

Just prior to their game yesterday evening, the Penguins held a very touching ceremony to celebrate the life of Johnson.

Check it out:

Everything I've heard and read about Johnson in the past 48 hours is that he was a very humble and genuine guy. A hardworking player who was loved by all his teammates. I'm absolutely gutted that he was taken from us at such a young age. Here's hoping that his lasting legacy will be a complete review of the protective equipment used at both the youth/minor and the professional levels. I understand that each professional player should have the autonomy to choose their own equipment and to make their own decisions, but one death is one death too many. There was once a time when helmets weren't even mandatory.

To that end, it sounds like the NHL has been in direct contact with the NHLPA and is "strongly recommending" the use of neck guards for all players.

From NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly via Sportsnet insider Jeff Marek:

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly tells NHL Network Radio that Gary Bettman has been in contact with Marty Walsh of the PA to get the neck guard issue 'on the radar'. Daly says the NHL is strongly recommending the use of neck guards.

- Jeff Marek

Minnesota Wild insider Michael Russo also reports that Daly and the NHL have been recommending the use of neck guards for years now.

- Michael Russo

It seems like only a matter of time until the NHL pushes to make this change officially. I expect a "Grandfather" clause like the NHL enacted when it made helmets and visors mandatory.

In fact, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan announced today that the organization has made the use of neck guards and wrist guards mandatory for the AHL's Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and the ECHL's Wheeling Nailers. The team has also 'heavily recommended' to its NHL players to wear the guards, but it cannot mandate their use without approval from the NHLPA.

From Penguins insider Seth Rorabaugh:

“(President of hockey operations Kyle Dubas) and I have had discussions about it,” Sullivan said following practice today. “We’re in the process right now of trying to talk to our players about some protective equipment in those areas. Our (AHL) team has mandated that they’re going to wear neck guards and wrist guards. Our (ECHL) team as well. We can’t do that at the NHL level but we can certainly strongly encourage and that’s our hope.

“As a league, we can work towards developing just more options for guys in the protective department with respect to these areas. Hopefully, there will be an initiative here moving forward. That could be one of the positive things that come out of this terrible, terrible tragedy.”

Stay tuned. I suspect that mandatory neck guards and wrist guards will be a hot topic of discussion between the NHL and the NHLPA over the coming weeks and months.

Source: Seth Rorabaugh