Tuesday, December 5, 2023

NHL, NHLPA exploring protective gear options after former Penguin Adam Johnson’s tragic death

Following the death of former Pittsburgh Penguin Adam Johnson, the NHL and NHLPA are looking into their options for more protective equipment, especially for areas like the neck and wrists. Johnson died last week after a skate cut his neck during a game in England, and the NHL is hoping to avoid another tragedy like that in the future.

League commissioner Gary Bettman spoke to reporters at Metlife Stadium for a Stadium Series press conference on Wednesday, and he was asked about the possibility of extra protective equipment. Bettman said it may take some time, but he hopes the NHL and NHLPA can reach a solution in the near future.

“Whether it’s something that’s mandated directly or on a phased-in basis, that’s something we’ll discuss with the players’ association,” Bettman said, according to ESPN.

Marty Walsh, the NHLPA executive director, said that the players’ association will “explore everything” as it pertains to cut-resistant equipment.

“I think we have to continue to have conversations on this as we move forward here,” Walsh said. “It’s a change for the players, but it’s also about protecting them, so I think we will have those conversations as we move forward here.”

Bettman said the league wouldn’t mandate anything without the NHLPA’s approval and noted that it’s “human nature” to resist change. He just hopes that the league can act sooner rather than later to prevent a freak accident.

Some NHL franchises have already taken some steps of their own. On Monday, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told reporters that the organization was requiring neck guards for its AHL and ECHL teams. They can’t do that at the NHL level, but the Pens will still recommend the players look into extra protection on their own.

“We’re in the process right now of trying to talk to our players about some protective equipment in those vulnerable areas,” Sullivan said. “Our (AHL) team is mandated that they are going to wear neck guards and wrist guards. Our (ECHL) team as well. We can’t do that at the NHL level, but we can certainly strongly encourage. That’s our hope. Hopefully, as a league, we can work toward developing more options for our guys in the protective department with respect to these areas.”

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