Following the tragic death of Adam Johnson, whose neck was fatally cut, accidentally, by Matt Petgrave’s blade in a British league game on Oct. 28, more and more NHL players are opting for a neck guard. Among the early adopters is ex-San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson, who has tried it during Pittsburgh Penguins practices.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has strongly encouraged wearing neck protection, but further actions (if any) will ultimately be decided by the NHLPA.
Meanwhile, San Jose Sharks players talked about the importance of neck protection right after the tragic event in England but also raised concerns about neck guards limiting their movement on the ice.
So, what’s the latest on the Sharks and neck protection?
As of now, it appears that only two players in the San Jose Sharks organization have decided to try neck guards in game action.
Both are currently playing for the San Jose Barracuda in the AHL.
In recent Barracuda home games, forward Jacob Peterson and defenseman Valtteri Pulli were seen wearing black collars around their necks.
Jacob Peterson told us he didn’t think twice about giving neck protection a try.
“After the tragedy, [the Barracuda] equipment manager had four neck guards and asked if anyone wanted to wear one,” said the 24-year-old forward. “So I figured I’d try it out and see if I minded it.”
According to Peterson, the Barracuda coaching staff didn’t discuss neck guards with the team: “It was up to us.”
Peterson also mentioned that “a few other guys [on the team] talked about neck guards.” But it seems like nobody, except Peterson and Pulli, went beyond that…for now.
It’s safe to guess that the main concern for many players is discomfort. When the game requires you to make split-second decisions, you don’t want anything to stand in your way. Even if we’re talking about a potentially life-saving piece of equipment.
But Peterson noted he barely feels anything: “It really isn’t bad at all. I didn’t notice it much, so I figured I’d keep wearing it. I’ve worn them in the past so it wasn’t new for me.”
Perhaps many of the San Jose Sharks and Barracuda players still remember the slightly awkward, limiting collars they had to wear back when they were kids. But Peterson insisted that neck guards are a lot more modern and comfortable nowadays.
“The technology has increased over the years,” Peterson said. “So it’s almost as if you’re not wearing anything after a while.”
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