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Article:Does the NHL need neck guards?

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Author’s Note: The recent injury to pro hockey player Richard Zednik has re-opened the debate of if the NHL should require it’s players to wear protective neck guards. For the purposes of today’s article, I have turned to an anonymous hockey player to get his opinion. I have supplied footnotes where need be.

No, I don’t think we need neckguards.

Why the hell would we?

Look at it like this: all it took to slice open Zednik’s neck was a skate that had been flipped up in the air.

It was an accident. It doesn’t happen all the time. Hasn’t happened since that goalie got kicked in the neck like 25 years ago.(1)

But no doubt that the sportwriters will all say we need them now. Neckguards.

They’re what, two inches high? Padded with foam?(2) That’s not going to stop anything. When that defenceman got hit in the neck(3), a neckguard wouldn’t have stopped that.

Did you know that even the minor leagues don’t have neckguards(4)? That’s right, when I played major junior back out west in Moose Jaw, we didn’t have to wear them.

When I was in the minors last spring, I didn’t have to either.

Now that I think about it, I haven’t had to wear a neckguard since I was 16 years old, back in Sudbury. So why should I have to now? Why should I be punished?

Yeah, that’s right – punished. Treated like a kid. If I want to wear a neckguard, like if I want to wear a visor, it’s up to me and only me.

Look, I’ve been playing hockey my whole life. I think I know better then some jock-sniffer, sitting way up in the rafters, who’s never played a game in his life.

Let me lay it out for you. In baseball, people get hit by pitches all the time. In fact, a guy died from it a while back(5). But they don’t wear chest pads or a mask, just a helmet(6).

Small wonder that they call baseball the man’s game(7).

1 – Clint Malarchuk, a goalie for the Buffalo Sabres, had his jugular vein cut by the skate of Steve Tuttle in 1989. His life was saved by the immediate actions of trainer Jim Pizzutelli. Afterwards, the NHL started to require all goalies to wear neck protection.

2 – Most neck guards are actually padded with Kevlar.

3 – Montreal Canadiens defenceman Trent McCleary was hit in the neck by a slapshot in 2000, resulting in a fractured larynx. After his neck began to swell up, he underwent an emergency tracheotomy. He retired shortly afterward. He was not wearing a neck guard.

4 – Of the three CHL major-junior leagues, only the QMJHL requires neck guards. The AHL does not require neck guards.

5 – He’s either talking about Ray Chapman, who died in 1920 after being struck by a pitch in the head, or Michael Marano, a 12-year old player who died after being hit in the chest by a pitch in 1994. Chapman's death led to a number of rule changes, such as the elimination of the spitball. However, Marano's was quickly forgotten in the light of the baseball strike.

6 - They're not required by the MLB, but you can buy batting helmets with masks and both leg and arm guards. Barry Bonds is the best known user of such equipment.

7 - I don’t think anybody calls it this.

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