Student hockey players react after Adam Johnson’s death

The ice rink at the St. Croix Valley Recreation Center serves the hockey teams at the high school. Student players who use this rink are now considering their safety due to the death of Adam Johnson.
The ice rink at the St. Croix Valley Recreation Center serves the hockey teams at the high school. Student players who use this rink are now considering their safety due to the death of Adam Johnson.
Photo by Fen Parham

“It’s just freaky,” senior Josie Lang said. Hockey player for the Nottingham Panthers, Adam Johnson died Oct. 28 from a cut to the neck. This sent a ripple through the hockey world. Now, players everywhere are focused on their safety.

Neck guards are a piece of safety equipment for hockey players that is quickly becoming standard. Advocates believe if neck guards had been mandated, Johnson would not have died.

The high school has not mandated the use of neck guards, it is up to players whether to use them. Although this accident has spurred a push for more safety in hockey, some feel this was a one-in-a-million occurrence and that it will not happen again.

“There’s nothing I’m concerned about when I go out and play. I think it’s just a super freaky accident,” Lang said.

It is for this reason–the feeling that something like this will not happen again–that pushes for a mandate on neck guards and other safety regulations in hockey have historically been slow. Often, a death is needed for change to happen.

“It’s horrible that this had to happen for us to be more cautious, but I think this incident definitely helped us realize that we need to be more safe as players,” hockey player senior David Calderone said. “It’ll help us out in the long run.”

Injuries in hockey are common. Especially cuts to the neck. Despite this, nothing was done to mandate neck guards before Johnson’s death which elevated this issue to the public eye.

“They [other players] just have the scars. I mean, it is scary,” hockey player junior Luke Geisbaur said.

Injuries in hockey are common. Players have experienced skate cuts before, so safety equipment has always been available. This, however, is the first time something so severe has happened.

“On our high school team, the coaches hand out neck guards so I’ve kind of always worn one,” Geisbaur said. However, this is not the case on the girls team.

They [other players] just have the scars. I mean, it is scary.

— Luke Geisbaur

While neck guards and other pieces of safety equipment are common, only some players choose to wear them. Johnson’s death has made the importance of protective equipment something players are now more aware of.

According to Calderone there is “nothing specific” players have to wear for safety beyond their standard gear.

Despite inaction in professional leagues, players are taking action to protect themselves. Neck guard supplies are selling out and players are hoping for more regulations.

“I think every kid wears one [neck guards] now,” Geisbaur said.

In the aftermath of Johnson’s death, players are not significantly changed. They are going to keep playing hockey.

When asked how they felt playing hockey in light of this accident, Lang said safety was not a concern.

This accident serves as a lesson to players everywhere that hockey, like many sports, has the potential to be dangerous. Overall, student-athletes have not been too shaken by this accident but that does not mean it can be discounted.

“I would just like to say I hope all hockey players take this and realize how important their safety is and that you could die playing this sport,” Calderone explained.

Pushes for safety mandates have been historically slow, but this might bring about positive change. Hockey will continue safer than before because of this tragedy.

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    Adelaide BielkeFeb 6, 2024 at 1:44 pm

    The death of Adam Johnson was tragic. It seems that some good has come out of this situation specifically bringing awareness to safety. I think it is important for hockey players to get the proper safety equipment.