NHL players have begun wearing neck guards following the tragic death of Adam Johnson.
Johnson was an ice hockey player for the Nottingham Panthers in the UK who died after his throat was cut by a skate blade in a freak accident. It was the first time a hockey player has died as a direct result of a skate cut.
While the NHL strongly recommended players wear neck guards in the wake of Johnson’s death, the league cannot mandate them without NHLPA approval.
Some NHL players are taking it upon themselves to wear neck protection following Johnson’s death. Here is a list of NHL players that wear neck guards right now:
Rasmus Dahlin, Buffalo Sabres
Buffalo Sabres’ defenseman Rasmus Dahlin became the first player to try out a neck guard following Johnson’s passing. Dahlin wore a neck guard during the first half of the Sabres’ 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on November 1, 2023.
Dahlin’s not the first player to wear one at the NHL level, but rather the first player who previously wasn’t wearing one to try it out in the wake of Johnson’s death.
The blueliner wore neck guards growing up in Sweden and on the international stage, but stopped using them when he joined the NHL in 2018, saying he found them too uncomfortable.
Dahlin decided to try out a neck guard against the Flyers in response to Johnson’s death, but ended up taking it off halfway through the game as he found it too warm and restrictive. He told reporters he’s hoping equipment manufacturers will develop “something nicer in the near future” – a neck guard that is lightweight and breathable.
TJ Oshie, Washington Capitals
Washington Capitals’ forward T.J. Oshie was the second player to wear a neck guard in a game following Johnson’s passing. Oshie wore the neck guard during the team’s home game on November 2, 2023 against the New York Islanders.
Oshie’s neck guard designed was by his own company, Warroad Hockey, which provides a cut-resistant turtleneck base layer. The Capitals’s forward previously stated earlier in the week he planned to try out neck protection in response to Johnson’s death. Oshie made good on his words in the game against the Islanders.
Unlike Dahlin, Oshie actually wore the neck guard for the entire game. While Oshie is also promoting his own company by doing this, hockey fans are commending the American for being a leader and setting an example for other players. Oshie’s teammate Tom Wilson also wore a Warroad neck guard at the morning skate, signaling other Capitals may follow Oshie’s lead.
Jake Wallman, Detroit Red Wings
Detroit Red Wings defenseman Jake Walman is wearing a neck guard following the tragic passing of Adam Johnson. Walman first wore the neck guard on November 4th in a game against the Boston Bruins and has worn it every game since.
Walman told Michigan Live he has a couple different types of neck guards, made from cut-proof material, and is testing them to see which one provides the best combination of protection and comfort.
Four members of the Winnipeg Jets wore neck guards during the team’s road game against the Vegas Golden Knights on November 2, 2023. The four players that wore the neck protection were Nikolaj Ehlers, Cole Perfetti, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Rasmus Kupari. As of late-November, all four players are still believed to still be wearing the neck protection.
Four Pittsburgh Penguins players are currently wearing neck guards – Erik Karlsson, Marcus Pettersson, Lars Eller, and Ryan Graves. Each player wore them for the first time against the San Jose Sharks on November 4th, and they’ve kept the protection on since.
The Pittsburgh Penguins organization announced on November 1st that they will mandate neck protection gear for all players on their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and ECHL affiliate Wheeling Nailers.
While the Penguins couldn’t mandate neck guards for their NHL team due to the NHL Players’ Association, coach Mike Sullivan said the Penguins will “strongly encourage” players to use neck guards.
We are working on a comprehensive list of NHL players who were previously wearing beck guards prior to Adam Johnon’s death. In the meantime, this list will be updated with any new NHL players that wear neck guards in upcoming games.