WILKES-BARRE TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — After the shocking recent death of former Penguins Hockey Player Adam Johnson, the Pittsburgh Penguins are mandating their players with the AHL, including the Wilkes-Barre Scranton team, wear more protective gear, specifically around the neck.
But as we found out Wednesday, some local amateurs are already using the added layer of protection.
Pittsburgh Penguins Head Coach Mike Sullivan said that the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins will also be required to wear neck and wrist guards to prevent skate cuts to vulnerable parts of the body. Youth teams are following in those safety-first footsteps.
During the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins game against the Providence Bruins on Wednesday, players took a moment of silence to remember Adam Johnson. And when the puck dropped, some players took an added step of protection.
“Right now it’s a matter of getting the equipment in. It’s not for a lack of wanting to do it it’s just a matter of the timing of getting everything in,” said Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins Head Coach J.D. Forrest.
“It’s too risky out there anytime you are down low a skate could come flying at you. it’s really risky,” said Darryl Herman of Dupont.
That’s exactly what happened to Johnson, former Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins player from 2017-2018.
He was playing for the Nottingham Panthers against the Sheffield Steelers on October 28 when he suffered a slashed neck during the game.
“It maybe serves as a wake-up call that accidents can happen, horrific ones. And when you get caught in the neck area. It’s a matter of seconds between life and death,” said former NHL player for the new york islanders and New Jersey Devils, and Wilkes-Barre Scranton Jr. Knights Head Coach Ray Giroux.
Giroux now coaches one of his two sons that play hockey for the Knights. As a former player, coach, and father, he will look to make wearing neck guards a priority on his team.
“We sent an email out last year and we are going to do it again that everybody needs to wear the neck protectors,” said Giroux.
Max Jie, a member of the Knights team is already one of those players setting an example.
“The first time I wore it, it wasn’t too comfy and after a while, you get used to it, and it’s safer in general,” said Jie.
Coaches told me one reason players may not wear the protective gear might involve the cost of buying one. One parent says he doesn’t need a reason.
“I don’t see why there would be one not to wear them. Protect my children. Rather be safe than sorry,” said Pittston Township resident Judson Spencer.