We've already seen a handful of National Hockey League players make the decision to wear a neck guard in the wake of the tragic passing of former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Adam Johnson, who died late last month after an opponent's skate accidentally slashed his neck during a game in the British Elite Ice Hockey League.
Among the players who have done so include Ottawa Senators forward Claude Giroux, Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jake Walman, and Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie. And now, you can include Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cole Koepke to the list.
Koepke, who was recently recalled by the Lightning from their AHL affiliate, actually knew Johnson and the choice for him to include a neck guard as part of his gear wasn't difficult.
"I actually knew Adam," Koepke said. “A lot to take in ... boom. Shock. Just terrible.”
“It was pretty easy,” Koepke said of the decision. “You don’t think it will happen to anyone, yet alone someone you know. How it affected so many people just being from the same area. Seeing the impact of it and everything, it just makes sense.
“It’s horrible it happened,” Koepke continued. “It’s something you don’t really think can happen. ... And if it’s something that is so simple to wear and get an extra layer of protection, just in my opinion, why not do it? Obviously, everyone is old enough to make their own decisions, but I just thought if it’s something that doesn’t bother me, it just seems kind of like the right thing to do for me, personally.”
“I think it makes you even more grateful to play the game,” he added. “All the times that you lace up your skates and play, from being a kid until now, it’s something you don’t ever think of that could happen."
And just like everyone else has stated, Koepke confirmed the quality person that Johnson was.
“The person he was, just a great guy,” Koepke said. “Amazing person.”