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USA Hockey has officially announced that it will mandate neck laceration protection from August 1st for all players under the age of 18.
USA Hockey met for their annual meeting and approved making neck guards mandatory for all under-18 players as well as for all 19-year-olds playing at Junior level.
On-ice officials under the age of 18 will also have to wear neck guards from August 1st, a date approved by the organisation to allow time for any chain and production delays.
The decision came after the tragic death of Adam Johnson in the UK’s Elite Ice Hockey League due to a skate to the neck during a game.
USA Hockey has stressed their advocating for the use of cut-resistant clothing and has recommended they be worn for a long time, in the form of neck guards, forearm covers and cut-resistant socks.
According to a press release from USA Hockey, the organisation’s board made a request to their Safety and Protective Equipment Committee (SPEC) to recommend rule changes relating to neck guards back in November 2023.
The new legislation also states that the organisation strongly recommends that all players of any age wear neck guards although it is not mandatory for anyone over 18.
USA Hockey President, Mike Trimboli said in a press release: “Safety is always at the forefront of our conversations, and the action of our congress today reflects that.”
Trimboli also praised the organisation’s SPEC for their forward-thinking and significant work in making the recommendation to update their rulebook and passing the rule before their congress.
Executive Director of USA Hockey, Pat Kelleher said: “Throughout the entire organization, the overwhelming majority opinion was that the time was appropriate to modify our rules.”
She added: "We’re also encouraged that the hockey industry is committed to continuing to work to improve the cut resistant products that protect players to help influence the safest possible landscape for the game.”
The NHL are still yet to take an official stance on players wearing neck guards, despite the Deputy commissioner of the league, Bill Daly publicly speaking on them back in November.
Daly made an appearance on Sirius XM NHL Network and said during an interview that neck guards were a topic of discussion within the league at the time and had been for a while.
He even said: “We’ve been talking about wrist and forearm guards for a while, and we even have mandated them in the AHL and ECHL, but after the incident in England, we’ll step up the neck guards for sure.”
The decision has come rather late in comparison to some of the other major leagues across the world of hockey though.
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) made neck guards mandatory at all competitions it organises at any level after Johnson’s death.
While UK and German leagues made very public, heavy recommendations to wearing of neck guards at professional level and mandated them as required gameday equipment in some lower divisions.
Hockey Canada already had a rule in place which made neck guards mandatory for all under-16s even before the incident too.