Ice hockey officials are looking to ensure Adam Johnson's tragic death will not be repeated.
Over one month after the 29-year-old died from a laceration to his neck received during a game, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) is taking steps to implement further safety measures. The organization has announced neck guards will be mandatory at all levels—including at the Winter Olympics and World Championships.
"The IIHF Council, on recommendation from its Medical Committee," the organization said in a statement Dec. 4, "has decided to mandate the use of a neck laceration protector, specifically designed for this purpose, at all levels of IIHF competitions."
Noting the date of implementation will depend on supply of the protective gear, the statement continued, "The IIHF remains in close contact with its suppliers to ensure they are able to respond to the current high demand. Until the rule officially goes into effect, the IIHF continues to strongly recommend that neck laceration protectors are worn by all players performing in an IIHF competition."
But while the IIHF's mandate does not apply to professional leagues, such as the NHL, there are teams within the United States that are choosing to implement neck protectors: including Adam's former team the Pittsburgh Penguins, on which he played between 2018 and 2020.
In fact, the Pennsylvania team mandated neck guards for their two minor-league teams back in November.
"We can't do that at the NHL level, but we can certainly strongly encourage, and that's our hope," Penguins Head Coach Mike Sullivan said, per the team's website. "Hopefully, as a league, we can work towards developing more options for guys in the protective department. Hopefully, there will be an initiative here moving forward - I think that could be one of the positive things that could come out of this terrible tragedy."
And though they can't mandate the practice for their NHL team, the Penguins shared they did have the protective equipment available at practice for all players beginning Nov. 2. And, per the team, a number of NHL players began to try using the neck guards—including defenseman Erik Karlsson, who spoke to this choice.
"The magnitude of the situation that unfortunately happened puts a lot of things in perspective," the Swedish native said. "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."
He added, "If you can wear a small piece of equipment to hopefully prevent something like that again, I think that's a win."