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Ice hockey: Players will 'step up' safety measures and wear neck guards following Adam Johnson death, says Nick Rothwell

Nottingham Panthers player Adam Johnson died after being cut on the neck by a skate during game against Sheffield Steelers this weekend; Oxford City Stars have made neck guards mandatory for players and coaching staff and former player Nick Rothwell expects leagues to follow suit

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Former professional ice hockey player Nick Rothwell says he expects neck guards to become mandatory in the sport, after the tragic death of Nottingham Panthers star Adam Johnson

Ice hockey players will "step up" and set an example by wearing neck guards during games following the death of Nottingham Panthers star Adam Johnson.

That is the view of former player and Sky Sports commentator Nick Rothwell after Johnson, 29, passed away following a skate to the neck during Saturday's game against Sheffield Steelers.

Oxford City Stars, who play in South Division 1 of the National Ice Hockey League, have since announced they will introduce mandatory neck guards for all players and coaching staff for on-ice activities.

Rothwell expects other hockey leagues to follow suit but says players will now wear protection anyway to ensure children in the sport do likewise.

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Tributes have been paid to Johnson following his death at the age of 29

Rothwell told Sky Sports News: "I don't even think they will have to make neck guards mandatory. A lot of players will step up and lead by example.

"In England, under 18s have to wear them, it's mandatory, and they are not skating anywhere near the speeds of those in elite ice hockey.

"I think guys will make a personal choice to wear them as they will want children to follow their lead.

Adam Johnson tribute, ice hockey (Getty Images)
Image: Johnson died after receiving a cut to the neck from a skate while playing for Nottingham Panthers

"Work will go into making them lighter and stronger, not so heavy to wear, so players will wear them of their own accord.

"I also think leagues will make statements to mitigate any harm or damage to players. That will probably mean mandatory neck and wrist guards for players."

'Ice hockey community will support each other'

Reflecting on Johnson's passing, Rothwell added: "We are all still in shock. Ice hockey in the UK is a close-knit family.

"In ice hockey, you are part of a community and this has sent ripples globally. It is truly shocking, it is a very difficult time.

"Because of the severity of what has happened, I have complete and utter hope that people will come together and support one another as they should.

"The thought would definitely cross your mind [to not play again], especially those on the ice and who witnessed it but the pull of the game, the pull of the camaraderie, they will come through this."

Oxford City Stars make neck guards mandatory

Oxford City Stars' statement read: "These guards will be a non-negotiable component of attire during all practices and games, providing an extra layer of protection.

"This commitment signifies not only a significant moment for the Oxford City Stars but also a cornerstone in advocating for enhanced safety standards across the sport.

"We encourage other clubs to also offer these neck guards to their players. At our level of play, we strongly believe that these guards should be worn by all players."

Shane Moore, Oxford's director of hockey operations, added: "This decision reinforces our dedication to player safety.

"We want to ensure that every possible measure is taken to protect our athletes while they are doing what they love.

"Safety must be a fundamental aspect of our actions, and we are grateful to all our players and coaching staff for their support in moving this initiative forward.

"We hope to serve as positive role models for both current and future players, showcasing that safety should always be the top priority.

"A life has tragically been taken too soon in a freak accident, and if wearing neck guards can prevent another devastating loss, then we want to ensure we have done everything within our power to protect our players."

Reign pay touching tribute to Johnson

Ontario Reign paid tribute to former player Johnson following his death, making him their 'first star' following the win over Abbotsford Canucks.

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Ontario Reign pay tribute to former player Johnson, who died during a match for Nottingham Panthers vs Sheffield Steelers

Reign player Jacob Doty skated onto the ice holding a jersey sporting the number 49 and Johnson's name on the back, which he subsequently placed on a stool for other players to touch and pay their respects.

Johnson appeared in 42 games for Reign across two seasons in the American Hockey League.

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