The Western Hockey League is making neck guard protection mandatory for all players, the league announced Wednesday.
The WHL said in its announcement that the neck guard protection will go into effect Friday or as soon as the protective equipment is available to all of its clubs. WHL players will be required to wear neck guard protection equipment while participating in practices and games, the league said.
Initially, the WHL was the only one of the three leagues within the Canadian Hockey League that did not make neck protectors mandatory. Both the Ontario Hockey League and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League already had a mandatory neck protection provision.
“The WHL anticipates challenges in delivery of protective neck guard equipment from licensed suppliers due to increased demand following the tragic passing of Adam Johnson,” the league said in a statement.
Mandating neck protection comes less than a week after Johnson, a former NHL forward, died playing for the Nottingham Panthers in England’s Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) when his throat was cut by a skate blade during a collision in a Champions Cup game Saturday against the Sheffield Steelers.
The English Ice Hockey Association announced Monday that it would make neck guards and protectors mandatory starting in 2024 as part of a three-step plan. The additional steps of the plan included making recommendations within the next year that the EIHA review all aspects of player safety along with the EIHA providing its membership with “clear guidance” on the continual discussion regarding the improvement of player safety.
Johnson’s former NHL team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, announced Tuesday that they would be making neck protection mandatory for its AHL affiliate, the Wilkes/Barre-Scranton Penguins and their ECHL affiliate, the Wheeling Nailers.