May 16, 2024 - Sports

Rule change to require neck guards in Minnesota high school hockey

A hockey player with light skin and a short moustache in a helmet wears a neck guard — a black piece of cut-resistant fabric that fits closely to his neck.

A minor league hockey player in Pennsylvania wears a neck guard during practice. Photo: Aimee Dilger/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Minnesota high school hockey players will soon have to wear neck guards during games after a national sporting body announced changes to its widely used rulebook Thursday.

Why it matters: The rule change is the hockey world's latest response to Hibbing-born player Adam Johnson's death from a skate cut to his neck during a game — a tragedy that prompted a worldwide rethinking of youth hockey's approach to safety.

Driving the news: The National Federation of State High School Associations announced the change as part of a broader update to Minnesota high schools' hockey rulebook.

  • Their latest update requires players to wear "neck laceration protectors" during games.

Catch up quick: The change to high school rules follows a similar move by USA Hockey to require neck guards in youth hockey associations starting Aug. 1.

What they're saying: A Minnesota State High School League spokesperson confirmed to Axios in a statement that the neck guard rules "will apply" here.

  • The league has "strongly recommended" neck guards for years, the spokesperson added. Now, the rule change will align the league's "safety measures with other governing bodies, such as USA Hockey, to ensure the health and safety of all participants."

Zoom in: Many players will comply with the new rules by wearing a guard made of cut-resistant fabric and padding.

  • The rule will also apply to goalies, who must wear the guard and the "flapper-style" plastic shields that dangle below their masks.
  • Teams whose players don't comply will face penalties.

The intrigue: Many in hockey have compared the sea change around neck guards to the 2013 NHL rule changes that first required most pros to begin wearing visors or the 1978 college rule change that mandated skaters wear "full cage" face protection.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with an additional statement from the Minnesota State High School League.

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