Washington Capitals forward TJ Oshie explains decision to wear neck guard following death of Adam Johnson
(Screenshot/ Washington Capitals Official Website)

Washington Capitals forward TJ Oshie made history on Thursday night when he took the ice against the New York Islanders wearing a neck guard, becoming one of the first NHL players to embrace the protective equipment following the tragic death of Adam Johnson.

The cut-resistant turtleneck Oshie wore came from his own Warroad Hockey brand, which he founded. In wearing it during an NHL game, Oshie hoped to honor Johnson while also setting an example about player safety for younger hockey players.

“For youth, I hope that it shows them that it’s really not a distraction from my game,” Oshie told reporters after the game. “I thought I played pretty decent. Honestly, it was really comfortable.”

Oshie stressed that his decision stemmed from being a father of four who wants to minimize his own risks. “You can make your own choices. I made my own choice for my kids,” he said. “I want to stick around for them.”

Check out Oshie explaining his decision in the clip below:

The 36-year-old hopes his choice encourages more players to embrace neck guards. He said they are available and encouraged teams to provide them, while noting he didn’t think mandating them midseason made sense. “I think we’re grown men. If you don’t want to do it… you can make your choices,” he explained.

Johnson, 29, died last Saturday after an on-ice collision resulted in his neck being cut by a skate. His death has prompted discussion about neck guard use, which is common for youth hockey but not mandated in the NHL.

Oshie is far from the only player considering neck protection in the wake of the tragedy. Teammate Tom Wilson also tested a neck guard at practice, while players on the Penguins, Jets and Sabres have experimented with them lately as well.

The Western Hockey League mandated neck guards effective immediately following Johnson’s passing.

Oshie wearing one in an NHL game is still rare, but could prompt more players to follow his lead in honoring Johnson while protecting themselves and setting an example.