The oldest continuously published high school newspaper in America

The Willistonian, Est. 1881

The oldest continuously published high school newspaper in America

The Willistonian, Est. 1881

The oldest continuously published high school newspaper in America

The Willistonian, Est. 1881

Fatal Freak Accident Rocks Hockey World

Credit: Wikipedia

A freak hockey accident has taken the life of a former NHL rising star.

On Saturday, Nov. 28, during the second period of the Nottingham Panthers’ game against the Sheffield Steelers, Adam Johnson appeared to suffer a serious injury after a collision with a Steelers player. Fans were immediately asked to leave the stadium, and the game was suspended.

Johnson, a Minnesota native and University of Minnesota-Duluth Alum, spent 13 games over parts of the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons playing in the NHL for the Pittsburgh Penguins, with the rest of games being spent playing for The Scranton/Wilkes Barre Penguins in the AHL (2nd Division). Following this season he played abroad in Sweden, Germany and most recently England with the Nottingham Panthers.

Former Williston Goaltender and current Nottingham Panthers Assistant Coach, Kevin Moore ’07 described Johnson as a team first player with a true love for the game and his teammates.

“Many times, ‘team-first’ gets described in cliches with no substance while being acted on halfheartedly,” Moore said. “Adam Johnson was our best player with substantial character and a team first heart. You knew that what he loved the most was being with the guys. His infectious smile and sense of humor rippled across the room, connecting every player, and creating an environment of joy before we stepped on the ice,” Moore said.

Moore added that “It was even more apparent when he was quick with a witty comment when they missed an open net. His spirit created an environment that was respectful, loving, and joyous; he had no ego. And I mean none. In our power play discussions, I would ask him to shoot more, tell him he was ‘the big dog’ of his unit. That it ran through him. He would sheepishly give me that classic side eye Adam grin and shrug as if to say, ‘no coach, I am just one of the guys we will succeed together as a team.’”

Players in the NHL are not required to wear neck guards. The Pittsburgh Penguins instituted a policy for their AHL and ECHL affiliates but it is ultimately up to the individual team as far as neck and wrist guard use goes in the NHL, AHL, and ECHL. Three Major Junior Hockey Leagues require neck guards, with the Western Hockey League (WHL), Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), and Ontario Hockey League (OHL) all have policies in place.

According to ESPN, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said it’s a long process to make changes.

“We’ve been studying, with the players’ association, cut-resistant materials,” Bettman said. “It’s not something new. Ultimately it’s something that, if we’re going to require more, we and the players’ association need to come to an understanding on.”

“Unfortunately this was a freak occurrence, but it’s something that we’ve been looking at in terms of cuts to the wrist, cuts to the leg and worse, and it’s something we’re going to continue to discuss and continue to study,” Bettman said.

Bettman acknowledged that reaching consensus with the players on mandatory safety measures can take a while. He cited the yearslong “education process” involved in mandating visors on helmets, which was finally passed for the 2013-14 season.

Derek Cunha, Williston’s longtime Boys Hockey coach, told The Willistonian that neck guards are becoming the new norm for hockey.

“Right now neck guards are not required. But moving forward this year they will be strongly encouraged, and they will be mandatory starting next year’s season,” Cunha explained. “They would be mandatory immediately but the problem is supply. Right now they are flying off the shelves, and it might not be realistic for some players to get them.”

“Leading up to this incident most players didn’t wear them. That’s why from a supply standpoint, a hockey shop is not anticipating 60 or so players from the Williston Varsity to JV hockey levels, other NEPSAC Schools, and other leagues suddenly needing to get neck guards,” Cunha said.

Cunha added that “players typically have not been wearing them for a number of reasons such as fit and feel, and that there’s something constraining your neck while you’re sweating and playing. People don’t typically think about the safety ramifications of not wearing them.”

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