CASCADE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — The death of an American hockey player in England has players and leagues around the world and in West Michigan taking another look at safety.
Adam Johnson died two weeks ago after his neck was cut by a skate, driving a rise in interest inn neck protection.
Dylan VanderWeele, the general manager of the On Your Game store at Patterson Ice Center near Grand Rapids, says the devices are made with Kevlar and are growing in popularity.
“This here is just a generic neck guard,” he showed News 8. “It’s lightweight, flexible, soft. It’s got compression it’s a tight-fitting guard.”
“Can’t keep them in stock,” he continued. “They’re flying off the shelf. They’re not required but they’re recommended by just about every league and every coach and every parent, especially.”
Hockey parent Julie Bateson said Johnson’s death has many families reviewing safety equipment.
“We actually went through and kind of did an inventory, made sure that they’re wearing the equipment. We know we have it but making sure we reiterate with them the importance of that equipment for their safety,” Bateson said.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association requires neck protection. Youth leagues are also reminding their players to wear the guards and would like to see the technology improved, said Joel Breazeale, the youth hockey co-director with the Grand Valley Amateur Hockey Association.
“There’s definitely a need for a better product, a better product that’s safer and then falls within that area that the players will willing want at the next level to put them on,” Breazeale said.
Minor league hockey teams like the Kalamazoo Wings say potential regulations are being discussed, athletic trainer Cody Lindhorst said.
“As a league, the ECHL mandated the cut-resistant socks and wrist guards starting this year and now basically they’re going through the discussion on what to do with neck guards,” Lindhorst said.
The team is also seeing more interest from players.
“Players are now taking a little bit more ownership: ‘Hey, this is out there, can we do this?’ And if a player comes to us and wants to do something like that, absolutely, we’ll do everything we can in our power to get that for him,” Lindhorst said.