Capitals’ Oshie wears neck guard during NHL game, other players don them during practices after player’s death

The on-ice death of Adam Johnson has re-ignited discussion on the use of neck guards. Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky weighed in on the issue, saying he believes the protective equipment will become more common in the NHL 'in time.'

Washington Capitals winger T.J. Oshie wore a neck guard during the team’s home game on Thursday night — a move that comes after former Pittsburgh Penguins player Adam Johnson was tragically killed after his neck was cut by a skate in a game in England last weekend.

Oshie first had the neck guard on during pre-game warmups.

The neck guard was made by Oshie-owned Warroad Hockey.

“We’re grown men…you can make your own choices,” Oshie told reporters after the game, per Tarik El-Bashir of Monumental Sports Network. “I made my choice for my kids. I want to stick around for ‘em. I’m just trying to decrease the chance of injury.”

Buffalo Sabres defenceman Rasmus Dahlin started Wednesday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers with a neck guard on, but told the Buffalo News’ Mike Harrington he did not wear it in the second half of the game because of body temperature issues.

“I kind of tried it out for the first time during the game, but it didn’t last that long,” Dahlin said. “For sure, I want to use it and I want someone to develop a nice, breathable neck guard. I think the future is going to be it’s going to be a must.”

Several NHL players have worn neck guards in practices this week, including Erik Karlsson, Lars Eller, Ryan Graves and Marcus Pettersson of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Tom Wilson of the Capitals and Vladislav Namestnikov, Rasmus Kupari, Cole Perfetti and Nikolaj Ehlers of the Winnipeg Jets.

Karlsson said “the magnitude of the situation (Johnson’s death) that unfortunately happened puts a lot of things in perspective.”

“I think that we all have families and friends – we do this because we love to do this and we get paid well to do it and stuff like that, but at the end of the day, we do it cause it’s a choice. I don’t think anyone would keep doing it if it meant risking your life every day going out there.”

“If you can wear a small piece of equipment to hopefully prevent something like that again, I think that’s a win. We’re going to try it out for the foreseeable future and see if I can wear it regularly. I hope I can and I hope more and more guys try to do the same at least.”

Neck guards are not mandatory in the NHL, but legendary player Wayne Gretzky told CityNews on Friday that he foresees a day when they become a commonly-used piece of equipment.

“I think you’re going to find that we may end up seeing like a grandfather rule, like with the visors and the helmets, that if you come into the league and you’ve worn the neck guard, keep it on. There’s no reason to take it off. If you’re used it your whole life and you grow up and you’re comfortable with it at a young age, there’s no reason to take it off.

“I think in time here you’re gonna see a lot of NHL players wearing neck guards,” Gretzky said.

“It was horrendous,” he added of the recent hockey fatality. “It’s such a fast sport, you feel sick for the individual and the family.”

The NHL cannot make rule changes related to protective equipment without the approval of the NHLPA, but deputy commissioner Bill Daly has said the league is encouraging its players to think about making the switch.

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