COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The hockey would is continuing to mourn the death of Adam Johnson who died Saturday in an on-ice accident during a game in England’s elite ice hockey league.
Before heading across the pond, Johnson played in the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, appearing in 13 games with the Pens. One of his coaches during that time was Mark Recchi – who is currently a coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Recchi was Johnson’s coach in his NHL debut for the Penguins and says this weekend’s news was shocking.
“He was just a terrific young man. He had a great passion for the game of hockey and was just a good person,” says Recchi. “He was fun to be around. He was like I said, he was really, really serious about the game and he wanted to be a player. He loved the game. And it was a joy for, you know, you know, the people that were able to coach him to be around.”
Following the incident there has been a lot of debate about the use of neck guards. The league where the accident happened will now require neck protection. The Penguins minor league teams have also made neckguards mandatory.
At the youth level, USA Hockey recommends that players wear a neck protector but it’s not mandatory. For at least one youth hockey league in central Ohio, they say they have always recommended that parents get their kids a neck guard. And that change could be coming soon.
“I believe it’s probably on the horizon and it’s a good thing,” says Eric Travers, director of the Elite hockey development program here in Columbus. “The neck guard is a little bit uncomfortable because there’s some stiffness to the materials. Not hard plastic, but it is a stiffness that that obscures your ability.”
“It’s a tragedy and it’s a reminder just how violent the game is or can be and how dangerous it is when you’ve got players essentially wearing knives on their feet,” says Travers. “This is a reminder of just how dangerous it is and that for, you know, an extra 20, 30 bucks, you can buy a piece of equipment that will provide protection against what might happen.”
At this time there has been no indication from USA hockey that neck guards will become a requirement.