The Toronto Maple Leafs need to support neck guard protection.
As the NHL discusses next steps in how to potentially implement neck guard protection in the future following the tragic death of Adam Johnson of the Nottingham Panthers, the Toronto Maple Leafs should hopefully be vocal in discussions supportive of protective equipment in Hockey.
Adam Johnson’s death was a tragedy that was difficult to have been avoided based on what is currently in place. The NHL is so stranger to similar incidents, although those have come with better outcomes.
Just bringing up the name ‘Clint Malarchuk’ no doubt sends a shiver to many who know of his story playing for the Buffalo Sabres in 1989, similarly cut by a skate to the neck like Johnson, where Malarchuk luckily survived thanks to the quick actions of Buffalo’s athletic trainer, a former Vietnam War veteran. Malarchuk had to get therapy for PTSD nearly 20 years later when a similar incident happened to Panthers Forward Richard Zednik.
These incidents shake a team to it’s core.
Malarchuk told the Calgary Herald in an interview after Zednik’s injury that he wasn’t able to sleep thinking about what had happened to the Panthers Winger.
The NHL is unable to mandate any sort of protective neck equipment for safety without the approval of the NHLPA, although Gary Bettman confirmed he had spoken with NHLPA executive director Marty Walsh on preliminary discussions relating to neck guards, although mandating it league-wide may prove difficult.
Back in Buffalo, Sabres defenseman Rasmus Dahlin did attempt to wear a neck guard in Buffalo’s game against the Flyers on Wednesday, but found it difficult to breathe in. So likely it’ll take time to not only increase player usage, but to create neck guards that are more lightweight and breathable to wear throughout an entire game.
What the Toronto Maple Leafs Can Do To Promote Neck Guard Safety
Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly mentioned, as quoted by David Alter of The Hockey News, that the team would like to implement neck guards, but that it will be a player decision to wear so, implying there’s no plans to force a mandate, but hopefully, Toronto’s goal is player protection.
The Leafs, as one of the NHL’s most popular franchises, have the ability to be vocal and openly support a safer NHL.
The technology isn’t perfect yet, but the Leafs have a platform that can kickstart the trend of taking protective equipment far more seriously.
Brendan Shanahan and the rest of the Leafs front office certainly have the power to endorse better protective safety, and stars such as Auston Matthews are easily able to spread the word and promote neck guards and other protection not just in the NHL, but encourage young players from the start of their Hockey careers to be aware of how to stay safe on the ice.
The NHL will be speaking to the NHLPA, although a mandate, as implemented in other leagues, may be less likely.
Hockey is meant to be fun for everyone, without worry of things going wrong. What happened to Adam Johnson was a tragedy that many unfortunately had to witness, including both teams.
The NHL may not have the power to mandate protective equipment, but it’s a no-brainer to support it’s usage, and the Toronto Maple Leafs would be wise to be in full support to ensure all players on the ice have the safety to not worry about anything else but the game at hand.