SUN Hockey Pool

No need for guards

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

The accident that could have cost Richard Zednik's his life had it been much worse won't immediately bring about a rule forcing players to wear neck guards.

But it has at least one Calgary Flame considering the option.

"I had to wear one in the lockout and had no problem," said left-winger Marcus Nilson. "I don't know why I don't now. Maybe I should.

"There's a push to wear visors but that's because you can lose your vision. You get cut in the neck and you could lose your life."

Zednik suffered a cut neck Sunday night when Florida Panthers teammate Olli Jokinen tripped and had his skate kick up into the air.

Zednik fortunately received immediate treatment and yesterday was in stable condition in hospital.

The incident was a hot topic of conversation among the Flames yesterday.

"That was awful," said rookie forward Dustin Boyd. "It's scary that could happen to anybody. It's one of those freak things."

Minor hockey players in Canada wear neck guards, but don't have to once they reach the junior ranks, where nearly everyone puts them aside.

In some European pro leagues, they're mandatory.

Boyd, only a couple of years away from junior, wears a visor but said he wouldn't consider again wearing a neck guard.

"The odds of it happening are slim," Boyd said. "They are a good thing growing up, but ever since junior, guys stop wearing them. They are uncomfortable around the neck."

Left-winger Alex Tanguay wore a neck guard in the QMJHL but hasn't considered it since turning pro.

"It was so small, I don't know how much it could protect," he said. "I'd like to see how much it does protect, because I've seen skates go through gloves before. Those blades are so sharp, like razors, and seen people cut on their hands."

Head coach Mike Keenan doesn't believe there should be a push to force guards.

"We've gone through, in my recent history of the game, 20,000 games and had two incidents I can recall with Clint Malarchuk and now Richard Zednik," Keenan said. "It's a competitive sport, and you've got two blades on your feet and a club in your hand, so something's going to happen from time to time.

"Maybe the military has some kind of turtleneck that would insulate the neck from lacerations, a screening in a turtleneck as opposed to a neck guard."

Keenan does have a connection to the other incident, Marlarchuk's near-death experience in 1988 when the then Buffalo Sabres goalie had his throat slashed by a skate.

Malarchuk's life was saved because of the quick thinking of then Sabres trainer Jim Pisotelli, who worked for the Rochester Americans when Keenan was head coach of the AHL team.

And Malarchuk was the Florida Panthers goalie coach under Keenan.

"Clint was bleeding profusely and turned to Jimmy Pisotelli and said 'Am I gonna die?' and Jim said, 'I'm not going to let you die. You're too bad to die,' " Keenan recalled. "It's a bit of humour but he saved his life. It was experience, he was a Vietnam vet who had a lot of medical experience in a very real war."


Videos

Photos