Ice hockey neck guards not made mandatory as Adam Johnson death inquest delayed

England's ice hockey authorities will not amend its laws around neck guards despite the sudden, tragic death of Nottingham Panthers player Adam Johnson.

Johnson, 29, was killed on Saturday when an on-ice collision with another player resulted in a neck wound that proved fatal. The incident has led to a swell of calls for neck guards to be made mandatory across the sport's major divisions.

The English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA) has said it will enforce said ruling from 2024 onwards, but the Elite Ice Hockey League – which is not governed by the EIHA – will not follow suit. An EIHL spokesperson said the division will continue to recommend players use 'BNQ or other ISO Standard neck laceration protectors', but they will not be compulsory.

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The news comes after it was announced a full inquest into Johnson's death will be pushed back until January. However, senior coroner Tanyka Rawden could not confirm specific dates on Friday.

"My initial investigation has led me to believe that on October 28, while playing ice hockey in a game between Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers, Mr Johnson was seriously injured," she said. "He was taken by ambulance to Northern General Hospital in Sheffield where he died later that day from his injuries. He was identified by his fiancee, miss Ryan Wolfe.

"I am not in a position to fix the inquest at this time as my investigation into the death of this gentleman is not complete. I would like to take this opportunity to offer his family, friends and all those who knew him my most sincere condolences at this difficult time."

Wolfe – Johnson's girlfriend and fiancee – had to identify her partner's body after Saturday's fixture between the Panthers and the Sheffield Steelers ended in heartbreak. The Challenge Cup fixture was soon abandoned after players from both teams formed a ring to cover the attempts to resuscitate Johnson.

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Thousands of fans in attendance were then evacuated from the Utilita Arena before news of the Minnesota native's death was made public on Sunday. As of Friday (Nov 3), a Go Fund Me page aiming to raise £10,000 to help support Johnson's family had amassed more than £17,000 in donations.

Neck guards are already mandatory under the laws of Scottish Ice Hockey and Ice Hockey UK, the organisation in charge of Team GB. National Hockey League (NHL) commissioner Gary Bettman said his group would "discuss [the issue] with the players' association."

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