A Tragedy on the ice reopens the conversation about safety mandates

People of Nottingham gather to remember Johnson’s death. Credit from The Telegraph

Author: Ava Bell

Like most things in our world, tragedy often occurs before change can be made to prevent that tragedy from happening again. Within the past week, the hockey community has seen this shift after the death of a young player. 

According to CNN, on Oct. 28, 2023, professional ice hockey player Adam Johnson passed away at the age of 29 after what police and news reports are calling a “freak accident.” During his career, Johnson played in the National Hockey League (NHL) for the Pittsburgh Penguins, as well as in Europe for the Malmo Redhawks and the Augsburg Panthers. He was playing for the Nottingham Panthers when the accident occurred. 

An article from Fox News states that Johnson “…suffered a catastrophic cut to his neck,” and that “…according to multiple reports, the 29-year-old was slashed by the skate of an opposing player during a collision on the ice.” 

In a statement from the Panthers on Oct. 29, Johnson had tragically passed away. “The Panthers would like to send our thoughts and condolences to Adam’s family, his partner, and all his friends at this extremely difficult time,” said the statement according to Fox News. “Everyone at the club, including players, staff, management and ownership, are heartbroken at the news of Adam’s passing.”

In a statement from the Pittsburgh Penguins, “The Pittsburgh Penguins join the entire hockey world in mourning the life of Adam Johnson, whose life tragically ended far too soon.” 

With hockey being known as a physically demanding sport, it is to no surprise that injuries occur. However, it is also a sport that is known to be stubborn in debate to make safety precautions necessary. According to AP News, it took the NHL until 2013 to make visors mandatory on players’ helmets. Even with that mandate, players who were grandfathered in don’t have to follow the rule. 

The passing of Adam Johnson has reopened discussion and debate about safety precautions for hockey. In a statement from the English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA) following Johnson’s death, it was stated that the short-term and immediate response for neck guards and protectors was that “…the EIHA makes a ‘strong recommendation’ that all players at all levels across English Ice Hockey use an approved Ice Hockey Neck Guard/Protector whilst participating in all on ice activities. This “strong recommendation” is in place until 31 December 2023, after which it will become a mandatory requirement.” 

As for the NHL, the Pittsburgh Penguins have joined in with the EIHA and have told their players to wear neck protection. This is not yet mandated at the NHL level, but it is strongly encouraged. 


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