Adam Johnson’s Freak Accident And Death Raises Safety Concerns, Forces English Ice Hockey To Make Neck Guards Mandatory

Minnesota Duluth hockey player Adam Johnson skates against Providence College during a NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Northeast Regional semifinal game in Worcester, Mass. Johnson died after being injured in a game in England on SaturdayRichard T Gagnon | Getty Images 2016

(MPRnews) Ice hockey players in England will be required to wear neck guards starting next year, following the death of former Hibbing High School and University of Minnesota Duluth player Adam Johnson in a game.

Johnson’s neck was cut by a skate blade on Saturday, while he was playing for the Nottingham Panthers.


Friends, family, teammates and hockey fans across Minnesota and around the world continue to mourn and remember the 29-year-old.

“He got along with everybody,” recalled UMD coach Scott Sandelin, who spoke with reporters at Amsoil Arena in Duluth on Monday. “The guys loved him, they respected him. I mean, obviously, he’s a talented player — but just his personality, right? He got along with everybody, was fun to be around, sometimes life of the party.”

Sandelin also is from Hibbing, Minn., and recalled watching Johnson’s father, Davey, play hockey years before he coached Adam. Davey Johnson played college hockey at UMD, too.

Sandelin called Adam Johnson “a special kid, you know? Meant a lot to me, too. It was another Hibbing kid that we got in our program, his dad played here, that’s important to us. But he was just a wonderful kid, had a great sense of humor, little witty. But just a special, special player, one of the best players that come out of Hibbing.”

A hockey player skates in an NHL game
Adam Johnson of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Bruce Bennett | Getty Images 2019

Player safety measures

The English Ice Hockey Association, which governs ice hockey in England below the Elite League — where Johnson was playing — announced measures on Monday to improve player safety.

Neck guards will be mandatory from Jan. 1 for all on-ice activities for players. The EIHA said it was its “strong recommendation” that all players start wearing a neck guard, effective immediately. The body added neck guards would not be mandatory immediately because of anticipated supply issues.

“It is unacceptable for any player to lose their life while playing sport,” the EIHA said. “Our responsibility is not only to avert the recurrence of such a heartbreaking accident, but also to pre-emptively address other foreseeable incidents in the future.”

Players in the U.K. are allowed to play without neck guards after they turn 18.

The 29-year-old Johnson was playing for Nottingham against the Sheffield Steelers when he suffered the skate cut in a Champions Cup game. He appeared in 13 NHL games with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019 and 2020.

Within 12 months, the EIHA said it would conduct a “thorough” review of player safety equipment “including, but not limited to, the use of helmets, mouthguards/gumshields and facial protection.”

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