After tragedy, Silvertips, WHL to wear neck guards

The death of a hockey player in England caused the WHL to mandate new safety equipment. Meanwhile, Everett posts a 2-2 week.

Carter Bear

Carter Bear

Tragedy within the hockey community has led to changes for the Everett Silvertips and the rest of the WHL.

In the wake of Adam Johnson’s death during a professional game in England, the WHL announced last week it was making neck guards mandatory for all players. The rule went into effect last Friday, though the rollout is being conducted gradually because of the increased demand for the equipment.

On Oct. 28 Johnson, a former NHL player, was playing for the Nottingham Panthers of England’s Elite Ice Hockey League when a collision with a player from the Sheffield Steelers resulted in Johnson’s neck being cut by a skate. Johnson was tended to on the ice, then taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Johnson was 29.

Three days later the WHL announced neck guards, which are made out of cut-proof fabric and wrap around the entire neck, were being made mandatory. Players will be required to wear them during all on-ice activities, including games and practices.

The WHL is the last of the Canadian Hockey League’s three leagues to make neck guards mandatory. The Ontario Hockey League and Quebec Major Junior Hockey League already required neck guards prior to Johnson’s death.

“I am in full agreement with the implementation of the neck guards set forth by the WHL,” Everett coach Dennis Williams said Monday via text while the team bussed back from Alberta. “I believe neck guards should be worn at all times.”

Everett was returning from a four-game road trip through the WHL’s Central Division, during which the Tips went 2-2.

The trip began strong for Everett, with a 5-1 victory at Lethbridge on Wednesday and a 6-4 victory at Calgary on Friday. However, the Tips dropped the final two, losing 4-1 at Medicine Hat on Saturday and 4-1 at Swift Current on Sunday. Everett outshot its opponent in three of the four games, and in the one it didn’t it was outshot by Medicine Hat 31-30.

“I liked the way our team played,” Wiliams said. “We competed in all four games. Given the schedule of a four-in-five and three-in-three like we had, I felt our players and staff did a good job considering the challenges.”

Typically when teams take road trips out east they face every team in the division. However, the Tips returned having played just four of the six Central Division teams. Everett instead tacked on games against the Central’s northernmost teams, Edmonton and Red Deer, to it’s trip to Prince George at the end of November.

Three stars of the week

Third star: Julius Miettinen. The rookie 17-year-old center from Finland finished the week with two goals and an assist. One of his goals was a highlight-reel effort as he scored with his back to goal by shooting between his legs.

Second star: Dominik Rymon. The 19-year-old winger had a goal and four assists. He ran the show in Wednesday’s victory over Lethbridge, when he had a goal and two assists.

First star: Carter Bear. The rookie 17-year-old winger scored goals in three of the four games and finished with four goals total. After managing just two points in 19 games as a frequent call-up last year, Bear has seven goals and five assists in 17 games to provide important secondary scoring.

The week ahead

Everett returns home for two games this weekend at Angel of the Winds Arena, both against B.C. Division foes.

First up on Friday night are the Kelowna Rockets. Kelowna (7-8-1-0) sits in the middle of the pack in the B.C. Division after losing its past four games. The Rockets are led by one of the league’s premier offensive players, 18-year-old forward Andrew Cristall (11 goals, 19 assists), while 17-year-old forward Tij Iginla (13 goals, eight assists), the son of former NHL and WHL legend Jarome Iginla, is in the midst of a breakout season.

Then on Saturday the Tips host the Vancouver Giants. Vancouver (6-8-1-0) is two points behind Kelowna in fourth place in the B.C. The Giants are without star 19-year-old forward Samuel Honzek, who remains with the NHL’s Calgary Flames after sustaining a lower-body injury during a preseason game. Nineteen-year-old forward Jaden Lipiski (three goals, seven assists) leads the team in scoring.

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