OHL mandates neck protection

RYAN PYETTE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 1:43 PM ET

OHL players have until Monday to get used to a new piece of protective equipment.

Neck guards.

A month after Florida Panthers forward Richard Zednik was cut in the neck by an errant skate, the OHL's board of governors approved a recommendation by the competition and executive committees that its players start wearing neck protection. It will be mandatory for all regular season and playoff games starting March 10.

"Every member of the board of governors was asked to submit a vote by fax and I can't imagine it got anything but overwhelming support," London Knights governor Trevor Whiffen said. "I'm old enough to remember (former Buffalo Sabres goalie) Clint Malarchuk and what a frightening situation it was when his neck was cut by a skate.

"If you didn't vote for it and one of your players gets hurt like that, then shame on you."

Whiffen said GMs were also asked for their input and London's Mark Hunter was in favour "right away."

"You may see some players use them in this week's games," Whiffen said. "They're mandatory (on Monday) so you might as well get used to them."

London captain Scott Aarssen, who watched video of the Zednik incident, hasn't worn a neck guard in a game since midget. He doesn't recall an incident from his minor hockey days where wearing one prevented a teammate or opponent from serious injury.

"We talked about it after it happened (to Zednik) and a skate coming up like that is a fluke thing so you hope it helps in a situation like that (to wear neck protection) but you don't really know until it happens," he said. "It's adding another layer of equipment and you worry about the sticks coming up.

"I remember before the visor rule came in for junior B and we wore cages, the head shots were ridiculous. It seems like the less equipment we wear, the more respect there is out there for the other player."

The OHL isn't about to sit around and wait until it has an incident on its hands. Whiffen said by then, it's too late.

"The Ontario Hockey League has a responsibility to continually address the best interests of its players," OHL commissioner David Branch said. "We are of the opinion that the introduction of the wearing of neck guards will only serve to enhance the health and welfare of all players in our league,"


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