Adam Johnson: Coroner says neck guards should be mandatory

A coroner has warned more ice hockey players could die if neck guards are not made compulsory after a player suffered a fatal injury in Sheffield.

Nottingham Panthers player Adam Johnson was cut by a skate worn by Sheffield Steelers player Matt Petgrave during a Challenge Cup match at the Utilita Arena on October 28.

Coroner Tanyka Rawden has written a prevention of future deaths report after she opened an inquest into the 29-year-old’s death.

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In her report, the coroner said she is “sufficiently concerned” more players could die “if neck guards or protectors are not worn”.

Nottingham Panthers ice hockey player Adam JohnsonNottingham Panthers ice hockey player Adam Johnson
Nottingham Panthers ice hockey player Adam Johnson

She added: “The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) recommends that neck guards or protectors are worn, but there is no requirement for ice hockey players over the age of 18 to wear equipment designed to protect the neck.

“In due course the inquest will consider whether the use of a neck guard or protector could have prevented Mr Johnson's death.”

The IIHF and Sport Minister Stuart Andrew have been sent copies of the report and they must respond by December 29.

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The English Ice Hockey Association has already stated it will become mandatory for all players to wear neck guards during "on-ice activities" from the start of 2024 and recommended that players wear them until that rule comes into effect.

It is the sport's governing body in England and Wales, which oversees almost 400 teams at junior and senior level below the Elite League.

South Yorkshire Police are still investigating Johnson’s death and will provide evidence at the inquest, which has been adjourned until January 26.

About 8,000 fans watched in horror as attempts were made to save Johnson’s life as he lay on the ice at Sheffield’s Utilita Arena, shielded by fellow players.

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He was taken by ambulance to the Northern General Hospital in Sheffield, but died later that day and his body was identified by his fiance Ryan Wolfe.

Born in Minnesota, he played for Pittsburgh Penguins in the National Hockey League before spending the 2020-21 season in Sweden with the Malmo Redhawks.

He went on to play in the American Hockey League for the Ontario Reign and in Germany for the Augsburger Panther before agreeing to join Nottingham for the 2023/24 season.