Olympic hockey players must wear neck guards after IIHF ruling in wake of Adam Johnson’s death

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The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) announced earlier this week that its players at all levels must wear neck guards during tournament play, including the Olympics.

The decision comes roughly six weeks after Adam Johnson, a former member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, died after a skate slashed his throat during a game in England.

It remains to be determined when the rule will go into effect, as the equipment is not yet readily available.

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Olympic rings on ice

Olympic hockey players will now be mandated to wear neck guards during play. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

“The IIHF remains in close contact with its suppliers to ensure they are able to respond to the current high demand,” the organization said. “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.”

The English Ice Hockey Association, which governs the sport below the Elite League where Johnson played, reacted to his death by requiring all players in England to wear neck guards beginning in 2024. Similar to the IIHF, the mandate was not immediate because of supply issues.

Flower tributes for Nottingham Panthers player Adam Johnson

Flower tributes to Nottingham Panthers player Adam Johnson are seen outside the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham, England, on Nov. 18. (AP Photo/Rui Vieira)

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Although not mandatory in the National Hockey League, several players have recently worn protection, including USA hockey hero and Washington Capitals right winger TJ Oshie.

“NHL guys, I think it’s super important that they know it’s going to be available,” Oshie said. “We’re grown men. If you don’t want to do it, you don’t. At least now, middle of the season, I don’t know if it’s necessary to mandate it, but you can make your own choices. I made my choice for my kids. I want to stick around for them. Just trying to decrease the chance of injury.”

Johnson’s death is currently being investigated by authorities, which led to a suspect being arrested on suspicion of manslaughter.

Adam Johnson skates

Pittsburgh Penguins center Adam Johnson warms up before the preseason game against the Detroit Red Wings at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh on Sept. 20, 2017. (Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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The IIHF initially only had neck protection mandates for under-20 and under-18 tournaments.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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