Hockey Equipment Companies Could Benefit From Neck Guard Mandate

The nation’s governing body for ice hockey is cracking down on neck safety measures after a string of incidents that resulted in fatal injuries.

On Sunday, the USA Hockey Congress approved legislation that requires the use of neck laceration protection for players of all ages (outside of adults) in games and practices. The new rule, which includes on-ice officials under the age of 18, will go into effect starting on Aug. 1.

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The new policy, which has been adopted by the English Ice Hockey Association and International Ice Hockey Federation, extends to 19-year-old boys, girls and other junior-level U.S. players.

The delay in implementing the new rule allows for potential production delays for neck guards and supply chain issues. The move comes just three months after Minnesota native and former Nottingham Panthers player Adam Johnson died after his neck was cut by an opposing player’s skate during an Elite Ice Hockey League game. Former St. Luke’s School player Teddy Balkind also died two years ago when he took a skate to the neck in a private school matchup in Greenwich, Conn.

Some NHL players, including Tampa Bay’s Cole Koepke, have come out in support of using neck guards since the death of Johnson. Washington Capitals right winger TJ Oshie, for example, has worn protective turtlenecks from his own apparel brand Warroad since the Johnson incident.

Warroad, founded by Oshie in 2018, is one of the hockey brands that could benefit from the new legislation as more players will turn to equipment endorsed by the game’s biggest stars. CCM Hockey, Skate Armor and Sherwood Hockey, which calls NHL stars Connor Bedard and Matthew Tkachuk brand ambassadors, are among other popular hockey equipment companies that produce neck protectors and likely will see a jump in sales as a result of the latest policy.

Sherwood’s parent company Canadian Tire Corp. (CTC) is a publicly owned merchandise company that reeled in $4.6 billion in revenue during last year’s third quarter. CTC, which also owns giant Canadian retailer Sport Chek, acquired Sherwood in 2018. A jolt may be helpful for CTC after reportedly laying off a small portion of its workforce at the end of last year because of softening consumer demand.

USA Hockey has previously recommended neck laceration protection, but the organization’s board of directors decided to reevaluate requirements last year and asked its safety and protective equipment committee to implement potential rule changes this past November.

The legislation also strongly recommends the use of neck laceration protection for adults. But will the NHL follow suit? That remains unclear as neck guards continue to be optional for players. Any changes would have to be through an amendment between the NHL and the NHL’s Players Association. The Pittsburgh Penguins though have made neck guards mandatory for their feeder team players in the American Hockey League and East Coast Hockey League.

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