Lawmaker proposes mandatory neck guards after hockey death

·2 min read
FILE - The U19 Connecticut Polar Bears skate back to the bench after scoring their fifth goal in the first period in Newington, Conn., Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2005. A Connecticut state lawmaker, Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, says she plans to introduce legislation requiring all hockey players to wear a neck guard or a similar protective device during practice or games following the death last week of a 10th-grade player whose neck was cut by a skate. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut state lawmaker says she plans to introduce legislation requiring all hockey players to wear a neck guard or a similar protective device during practice or games following the death last week of a 10th-grade player whose neck was cut by a skate.

While the governing body for interscholastic sports among secondary schools, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, requires all hockey players to wear neck protection, the rules don't apply to private schools or youth hockey programs, according to Rep. Nicole Klarides-Ditria, R-Seymour, a certified sports athletic trainer.

"It’s incredibly heartbreaking what happened last week and sadly this tragic accident may have been preventable had the teams been required to wear neck guards,” she said in a statement released Friday.

Benjamin Edward “Teddy” Balkind, 16, a member of the hockey team at the private coeducational St. Luke's School in New Canaan, died Jan. 6 following a game at the Brunswick School, a college preparatory school in Greenwich for boys.

Mark Davis, the head of the school, said in a letter to the St. Luke's community Wednesday that Balkind was skating “upright and low” when he was injured.

"During the normal course of play, another player’s leg momentarily went into the air and, through no fault of anyone’s, or any lack of control, his skate cut Teddy,” Davis wrote.

Police had said previously that Balkind had fallen to the ice and the other player was unable to stop and collided with him. Davis said he wanted to share a more accurate description of the accident on behalf of the Balkind family.

“Why is this important to share? Because it’s accurate and because it emphasizes the lack of any fault. These boys were excellent skaters, playing a great and fair game when an unimaginable accident wreaked havoc,” Davis wrote.

It is unclear whether Balkind was wearing a neck guard.

Klarides-Ditria said she has spoken with various legislators and local hockey coaches who support the concept of mandatory neck protection. Details of the bill are still being discussed. The General Assembly is scheduled to convene Feb. 9.