UK coroner calls for mandatory ice hockey neck guards after death

LONDON (Reuters) – A British coroner overseeing an investigation into the death of Nottingham Panthers ice hockey player Adam Johnson has called for neck guards to be made mandatory.

Johnson, 29, died following what his club called a “freak incident” during a match against Sheffield Steelers in Sheffield, northern England, on Oct. 31, after his neck was cut by a skate blade of another player.

Coroner Tanyka Rawden, who will be overseeing an inquest into the death, has contacted English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA), the sport’s governing body in England and Wales, calling for urgent action.

“In due course the inquest will consider whether the use of a neck guard or protector could have prevented Mr Johnson’s death,” she said in her report.

“At this stage in my investigation however, I am sufficiently concerned that deaths may occur in the future if neck guards or protectors are not worn … In my opinion action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you have the power to take such action.”

She said a copy of her report would also be sent to the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF).

In the wake of Johnson’s death, the EIHA has said the safety of players must take precedence above all else and has made neck guards mandatory from Jan. 1 for all on-ice activities.

However it did not make the neck guards mandatory with immediate effect due to anticipated supply issues but made a “strong recommendation” that players at all levels across English Ice Hockey start using a neck guard.

British police are also looking into the incident but have said this was standard practice following a sudden and unexpected death in order to provide findings for the coroner.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Kate Holton)