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Ice hockey will not make neck guards mandatory despite Adam Johnson tragedy

The Elite Ice Hockey League will not make the use of neck guards mandatory but will “strongly encourage” players and officials to wear them after the death of Nottingham Panthers player Adam Johnson.

Johnson, who was 29, died last Saturday after sustaining a cut to the neck during a game against Sheffield Steelers. The English Ice Hockey Association has since said neck guards will become mandatory from 2024, but the Elite League is not under the governing body’s control.

A spokesperson for Elite Ice Hockey League said: “We are devastated by the loss of Adam’s life, and our thoughts remain with his family, teammates and everyone else affected during this difficult time.

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“Player safety and welfare is our top priority and we work with players, officials, clubs, and the relevant authorities to review research and advice to understand how we continually enhance the safety of our sport.

“All clubs continue to follow the existing guidance from the International Ice Hockey Federation, that the use of a BNQ or other ISO standard neck laceration protector is recommended.

“The Elite Ice Hockey League strongly encourages players and officials to wear one and clubs and the League will continue to support players and officials to do so.”

No games have been played since Johnson’s death but the league will return to action this weekend, with all teams except Nottingham and Sheffield due to play on Saturday and Sunday.

An inquest into Johnson’s death was opened and adjourned in Sheffield on Friday morning. Sheffield’s senior coroner, Tanyka Rawden, said that inquiries into the death were continuing, and adjourned the inquest until 26 January, while stressing this would be for a review and not for the full hearing.

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Mrs Rawden concluded the four minute long hearing by saying she wanted to “take this opportunity to offer to his family, his friends and all those who knew him, my sincere condolences at this difficult time.” None of Johnson’s family were in court for the brief hearing.

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South Yorkshire Police has confirmed it is investigating the incident but officers have said the inquiry “will take some time”.

Officers have carried out inquiries at the arena, studied footage of the collision and spoken to experts, aided by Sheffield City Council’s health and safety team. The force said the investigation would be lengthy.

On Wednesday, the Panthers invited fans of all clubs to attend Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena to celebrate the former NHL player on Saturday 4 November. The Panthers have also announced the creation of an official fundraising page to raise money for the Love for Hibbing and Hockey Memorial Fund – established in Johnson’s memory.