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Neck guards now mandatory in Alberta junior hockey

Wearing protective neck gear is now mandatory for Canadian junior A hockey players during all on-ice activities following a recent in-game tragedy overseas.

ALBERTA – Wearing protective neck gear is now mandatory for Canadian junior A hockey players during all on-ice activities following a recent tragedy overseas.

On Friday (Nov. 3), the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL), which overlooks the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), said all nine CJHL-member leagues unanimously approved the decision.

“Effective immediately, the use of certified protective neck guards during all on-ice activities, including games and practices, for each of its 122 teams, has now become mandatory, subject to equipment availability,” the statement said.

The Western Hockey League (WHL) also made neck guards mandatory, as well as other teams and leagues across Canada and the United States.

Throat protectors come in two different styles: bib and collar, which are both generally made of ballistic nylon - a thick and tough fabric. The equipment is designed to protect the throat area against cuts and lacerations. 

Hockey teams and leagues began implementing the new gear rule following the shocking death of Adam Johnson, a former NHL player fatally injured Oct. 28 when his neck was slashed by a skate during an on-ice collision at a game between the Nottingham Panthers and the Sheffield Steelers of the English Ice Hockey Association.

The Minnesota-born centre was 29 years old.

The hockey world is still mourning the untimely death, with some of Johnson's former Pittsburgh Penguins teammates wearing neck guards during practice.

“The magnitude of the situation that unfortunately happened puts a lot of things in perspective,” said Penguins defenceman Erik Karlsson in a media release. “We do this because we love to do this and we get paid well to do it and stuff like that. But at the end of the day, we do it because it’s a choice - I don’t think anyone would keep doing it if it meant risking your life every day going out there.

“If you can wear a small piece of equipment to hopefully prevent something like that again, I think that’s a win… I’ll probably try it out for a bit and see if I can get accustomed to it, and go from there.”

In Hockey Canada’s rules, A BNQ-certified throat protector is already required equipment for players registered in minor and female hockey. Canmore Minor Hockey Association and Banff Minor Hockey are both under Hockey Canada's banner.

According to Hockey Canada, if a player's neck guard falls off, every effort should be made by officials to alert the player or direct them off ice. Before the player returns, they must have the equipment on and correctly fastened. Failure to abide will result in stop of play and potentially a penalty for the team.

Goaltenders who wear an attachment to the mask or helmet designed to protect the throat, must still wear a BNQ-certified throat protector.

The latest mandatory equipment use rule is the second to come into effect this year in the AJHL.

The AJHL is also abiding by Hockey Canada’s regulation that makes wearing full facial protection, or face cages or shields, required equipment for players. The change started at the beginning of the 2023-24 season.

The Outlook reached out to the junior A club the Canmore Eagles about the new neck guard rule and will update when possible.

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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