WINNIPEG, Manitoba — The hockey world continues to mourn the loss of Adam Johnson, a former NHL player who died after a freak accident in which his neck was cut by an opposing player’s skate blade during a game in England’s Elite Ice Hockey League on Saturday.
He was 29.
Since the tragic incident, discussions surrounding extra protective gear have naturally picked up.
The Rangers have not had any official conversations about wearing neck guards, largely due to the fact that they are at the end of a road trip that concluded against the Jets on Monday, but it has been a hot topic in the locker room.
The English Ice Hockey Association announced Monday that it is making neck guards mandatory for all players during on-ice activities beginning Dec. 31.
All clubs have been issued a “strong recommendation” to wear the safety equipment until it becomes mandated in anticipation of supply issues.
Following Johnson’s death, the Oxford City Stars of the National Ice Hockey League — the second highest British league — announced that its players must wear neck guards at all times on the ice.
Additionally, several players on the American Hockey League’s Providence Bruins wore neck guards during their game on Sunday.
Some Rangers already wear cut resistant sleeves on the exposed areas of their bodies that aren’t covered by their gear, such as the wrists and ankles.
They have a sock-like texture to them with a compression fit.
During the Islanders’ 2019-20 season, three different players experienced skate lacerations.
Cal Clutterbuck missed 30 games after taking a blade to the wrist, which required surgery to repair and left the Islanders forward quite shaken.
Casey Cizikas was sidelined for 13 games due to a leg laceration he sustained mid game, as well.
Later in the season, Johnny Boychuk caught a skate blade directly in the face and needed 90 stitches on the inside and outside.
It was a miracle he suffered no damage to his eye in the incident.
Walking into the visiting locker room of Canadian Life Center on Monday was certainly strange for Blake Wheeler, but skating out onto the ice of the arena he called home for 12 seasons felt good.
Wheeler admitted he expects to be a little uncomfortable being the center of attention, but the former Jets captain probably preferred to get it out of the way early.
Not too early, though, as Wheeler has finally started to settle into his new team after a flat start to the season.
“Honestly, the first six games I was not myself,” said Wheeler, who was put back on the Rangers second power-play unit ahead of his return to Winnipeg. “I think just all the newness and acclimating to new circumstances and just kind of hitting the ground running, felt a little bit lost out there. But I think the last week started to feel really good again, and feeling like myself again. Honestly, for me, I love being out there and feeling like I can play and contribute.
“We’ve got a heck of a hockey team, so it’s just about trying to bring value when we’re on the ice, making a contribution any way you can. You know how it is, once you get going and things start going the right way, I’m sure we’ll get some offensive chances and create some looks.
“But just enjoying this experience tonight and being back in a familiar place and playing in front of a bunch of people I care a lot about.”
This story originally appeared on NYPost