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Do NHL Players Have To Wear Neck Guards?

By Kapil Sapkota / 3 November 2023 11:00 AM

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NHL players are not mandated to wear neck guards. However, the league should recommend it for advanced safety during the games.

Neck guards are safety gear that protect the neck against injuries. While helmets and eye-protective visors are mandatory for the NHL players, neck guards are still an option for them.

Some other leagues than the NHL already follow obligatory neck protective gear rules. Most of the junior and female hockey leagues in Canada have gone with a compulsory neck protection policy.

One of the significant reasons the players don't prefer to wear neck guards is that it makes them slightly uncomfortable during the games. However, it is considerable for the safety it provides.

Moreover, neck guards are one of the most affordable hockey safety guards as compared to other kits such as helmets, visors, elbow pads, and so on.

Are Neck Guards Mandatory in the NHL?

As of now, neck guards are not a compulsion in the NHL. However, the league may impose a rule for the players to wear neck protective kits in the future.

However, the NHL is not a lone league that has not made neckguards compulsory for its players. The American Hockey League (AHL) also has not brought any neck protective rules for the athletes.

Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner said on November 1 that the NHL and its Players Association would find options for neck protective kits.

Neck guards are protective kits worn by players of different sports to prevent neck injuries. The neck guards are more prevalent in skating games such as bandy, rinkball, and ringette in addition to ice hockey.

Helmets, goalie masks, and eye-protective visors have become a must-wear protective gear for NHL players. The NHL made helmets compulsory in 1979.

Visors became mandatory in the NHL in 2013.

Neck guard came into light in 1975 in Canada after the Royal York Royals' netminder Kim Crouch suffered a severe neck injury in a match against the Markham Waxers.

Kim Crouch's father, Ed Crouch, prepared a prototype of the neck guard to help Kim return to the games. Eventually, the guard was widely adopted by ice hockey athletes.

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Neck guards have become a matter of discussion in recent days after the heart-breaking passing away of American hockey player Adam Johnson.

On October 28, Johnson suffered a severe neck injury from a skate blade during a match between Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers in England.

Following the freak accident, the match was immediately suspended. On Sunday, the Panthers confirmed that Johnson was no more.

Adam made his NHL debut with the Pittsburgh Penguins in March 2019. He previously played for the American Hockey League (AHL)'s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

NHL Players That Wear Neck Guards

Some of the players who are wearing neck protection are Erik Karlsson, Rasmus Dahlin, T.J. Oshie, Vladislav Namestnikov, and so on.

Since the NHL has not made the neck protective kits compulsory yet, it's up to the NHL teams and the players themselves to decide whether to play with neck guards or not.

On the other side, the NHL alone can't make changes to the protective kits rule without the approval of the NHLPA. The NHL and NHLPA will collectively develop a policy about the switch.

Here is the list of NHL players who were seen wearing the neck protection during practices and games: 

  • Vladislav Namestnikov (Winnipeg Jets)
  • Rasmus Kupari (Winnipeg Jets)
  • Cole Perfetti (Winnipeg Jets)
  • Nikolaj Ehlers (Winnipeg Jets)
  • T.J. Oshie (Washington Capitals)
  • Rasmus Dahlin (Buffalo Sabres)
  • Tom Wilson (Washington Capitals)
  • Erik Karlsson (Pittsburgh Penguins)
  • Ryan Graves (Pittsburgh Penguins)
  • Marcus Pettersson (Pittsburgh Penguins)
  • Lars Eller (Pittsburgh Penguins)

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Namestnikov, Kupari, Perfetti, and Ehlers appeared with neck guards during the Jets practice on November 1. The four are the first NHL players to be spotted with a neck protection.

The Capitals' forward Oshie skated wearing a neck guard during a game against the New York Islanders on November 2.

Oshie also opted to wear neck protection in warmups. The guard was developed by Warrod Hockey, Oshie's clothing company.

Dahlin, the Buffalo Sabres defenseman, was seen with a turtleneck-style protection in a match against the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.

The Winnipeg Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers covered his neck with protective gear during his match against the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday.

Moreover, the Capitals forward Tom Wilson also wore a base layer shirt during the franchise's practice session that featured neck protection.

Other Hockey Leagues with Neck Guard Rules

All three leagues of the Canadian Hockey League, the OHL, WHL, and the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League follow a mandatory neck guard provision for their players.

Other leagues of different levels are also considering the compulsion of neck protective kits after a recent incident of Adam Johnson.

Some of the hockey leagues already had neck safety rules, while some of them have recently introduced new protective rules for their players.

Interestingly, a number of professional hockey leagues have not responded regarding the neck safety of the players yet.

The NHL and NHLPA are also in discussion regarding neck protective kits for their players following the tragic incident of Johnson.

The incident triggered a renewed interest in neck protective equipment for players at all levels of hockey.

Johnson's former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins has made neck protection compulsory for its AHL and ECHL clubs.

On Wednesday, the Western Hockey League (WHL) announced that the league is making neck protection gear mandatory for all players.

The WHL announced that the neck guard protection rule will be effective from Friday or as soon as the protective kit is available to all its clubs.

Following the new rule, the WHL players are supposed to wear neck protective equipment mandatorily during practice sessions and league games.

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The WHL was the only team in the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) that didn't make neck guards mandatory for its players.

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Ontario Hockey League already had a mandatory neck protection provision.

The youth and adult hockey leagues in San Diego have also mandated neck protective gear for their players.

As reported by BBC, the English Ice Hockey Association is also making the neck guards compulsory during all on-ice activities beginning in 2024.

Likewise, the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL) is also about to consider a mandatory neck guard provision at its meeting on November 14.

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League is also joining the other leagues in Canada to mandate neck protection for all the players.

Minor hockey and all female players have been playing with neck protectors for about 30 years in Canada.

In 1989, Hockey Canada made the neck guards compulsory following a severe neck injury of the Buffalo Sabres goalie Clint Malarchuk.

Best Ice Hockey Neck Guard Options

Some of the best neck guards for ice hockey are the CCM Hockey 900 Cut Resistant Neck Guard and Shock Doctor Ultra 2.0 Neck Guard.

Here are some of the finest neck protections for ice hockey players currently available in the market:

  • A&R Sports Hockey Neck Guard
  • Shock Doctor Ultra 2.0 Neck Guard
  • CCM Hockey 900 Cut Resistant Neck Guard
  • Aegis Interceptor G Hockey Goalie Neck Guard
  • CCM Hockey Pro Bibbed Cut Resistant Neck Guard
  • GY Ice Hockey Goalie Neck Guard
  • PowerTek V3.0 Ice Hockey Neck Guard
  • CCM Hockey 600 Cut Resistant Neck Guard
  • Exalt Neck Protector
  • PowerTek V3.0 Ice Hockey Long Sleeve Compression Shirt with Neck Guard

A&R Sports Hockey Neck Guard

This neck protective kit comes with a nylon material to keep your neck cool and comfortable. Featuring an adjustable strap, the neck guard fits well for most of the players.

Source : hockeytron

It has a unique ability to contour the shape for your neck's comfort, making it even more customized. The price for the guards starts at $16 to $20.

Shock Doctor Ultra 2.0 Neck Guard

Being very lightweight and smooth on the skin are the best features of Shock Doctor Ultra 2.0. The guard has an in-built pre-curved neck form and is easily molded to your neck without adjustments.

The gear provides top-notch safety as it features cut-resist fiber technology. It will cost you roughly $20 in the local market.

CCM Hockey 900 Cut Resistant Neck Guard

This is one of the best neck protection gears in the market. CCM Hockey 900 incorporates a soft two-piece construction, allowing it to move freely and comfortably.

The protective gear ensures top-level safety against sharp material or skate blades as it comprises cut-resistant materials. It comes in different sizes for $25.

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