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Will NHL players finally adopt neck-protective gear following the tragic death of Adam Johnson?

A little over a year ago, T.J. Oshie came across a story about a young boy who was injured by a skate blade during a hockey game. Without hesitation, Oshie contacted his partners at Warroad, the hockey apparel company he co-founded, to address the issue. Originally focused on creating comfortable undershirts, Warroad shifted its focus to developing cut-resistant fabrics to protect players’ wrists and Achilles tendons. Now, Oshie wanted to create turtlenecks to protect players’ necks and carotid arteries. Warroad designed a sleek turtleneck with cut-resistant panels. Despite this innovation, Oshie noticed that no NHL players, including himself, wore neck guards or turtlenecks. Reasons for this included the heavy sweating during games making turtlenecks uncomfortable, players’ superstitions, and the perception that neck guards were not stylish. However, after learning about the tragic death of Adam Johnson, a former player for the Pittsburgh Penguins who was cut in the neck by a skate blade, Oshie decided to take action. He ordered five turtlenecks for himself and his teammates to try out, acknowledging the importance of protecting their necks, regardless of how it may impact their appearance. Other players, like Jason Dickinson, have also had close calls with skate-cut injuries, bringing attention to the need for better protection. Hayley Wickenheiser, a former player and emergency physician, argued that these incidents were not “freak” accidents, but rather common occurrences that often result in minor injuries or lucky escapes. The hockey community is slowly recognizing the need for neck protection as equipment evolves over time, with the hope that it will become a standard requirement at all levels of the game.

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