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B.C. hockey team says all players must now wear neck guards after former NHLer's death

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A junior hockey team on Vancouver Island is forcing all its players to wear neck protection following the death Saturday of a former NHL player whose neck was cut by a skate blade during a game in England.

The Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League's Saanich Predators announced the "immediate requirement for all players to wear neck guards during every VIJHL game" in a statement posted on the team's website Monday.

Police are still investigating the death of 29-year-old Adam Johnson, who was playing for the Nottingham Panthers against the Sheffield Steelers in Sheffield's Utilita Arena when his neck was cut by an opposing player's skate.

Joshnson died in hospital from the on-ice injury.

"We feel this is the respectful and responsible thing to do, not only for our players but for all hockey families who are saddened by this terrible loss," Norm Kelly, co-owner of the Saanich Predators, said in the statement announcing the policy.

The team's owners will purchase the protective equipment for every player before their next game Friday against the Victoria Cougars, the team announced.

South Yorkshire Police say their investigation into Johnson's death will likely "take some time," writing in a statement that investigators have finished their work at the arena and moved on to a wider investigation.

"Detectives have been carrying out a range of enquiries including reviewing footage, talking to witnesses and seeking the advice and support of highly specialized experts to seek to understand the circumstances surrounding what happened," the statement read.

"Due to the complex nature of this tragic and unprecedented incident, it is likely the wider investigation will take some time."

Johnson, a native of Grand Rapids, Minn., appeared in a 13 NHL games with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019 and 2020.

Following his death, four-time Olympic gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser took to social media to call for mandatory neck protection at "every level in hockey."

Wickenheiser completed medical school after her women's hockey career with Canada and currently works as a doctor and an assistant general manager for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"I know it may not pass the 'cool' factor but it's time for mandatory neck protection at every level in hockey," said Wickenheiser in a post offering her condolences to Johnson's family on X, formerly known as Twitter. "The risk is far too great not to."

With files from The Canadian Press

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