By The Canadian Press
Winnipeg Jets forwards Vladislav Namestnikov, Rasmus Kupari, Cole Perfetti and Nikolaj Ehlers wore neck guards during practice on Wednesday in the wake of former NHL player Adam Johnson’s tragic death.
Johnson, a 29-year-old from Minnesota, died in hospital after being cut in the neck by the skate blade of an opponent during a game Saturday night in the Elite Ice Hockey League in England.
The Jets posted pictures of all four players wearing neck protection to X platform, formerly known as Twitter, on Wednesday afternoon.
Johnson’s death has prompted increased discussions in the hockey world about the use of neck guards, something that is not mandated in the NHL.
Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL Players’ Association executive director Marty Walsh touched base Sunday in the immediate aftermath of Johnson’s death to set up further talks between the league and union about the skate blade safety issue.
The NHL cannot impose equipment changes without the agreement of the players association.
The Western Hockey League announced Wednesday it was making it a requirement. Neck guards are already mandatory in the Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League — the other two major junior leagues under the Canadian Hockey League umbrella.
Several American Hockey League players have also worn neck guards in the days since Johnson’s death.
The AHL and East Coast Hockey League affiliates of the Pittsburgh Penguins, the organization Johnson once played for, mandated neck guards for players.
The Jets have several players on their roster who were former teammates of Johnson.
“Our hearts go out to the Johnson family,” said Jets captain Adam Lowry. “I’ve always had teammates who were teammates of his. It’s heartbreaking news, so we’d really like to send our thoughts and prayers to their whole family.”
Winnipeg’s next game is on Thursday against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena.
— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) November 1, 2023
— With files from The Associated Press