Tampa Bay Lightning forward Cole Koepke is taking extra precautions following the death of former Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Adam Johnson last month. Koepke is opting to wear a neck guard going forward in order to protect himself from being cut by a skate blade.
“I actually knew Adam,” Koepke told the Associated Press following the Lightning’s morning skate on Monday. “A lot to take in … boom. Shock. Just terrible.”
“It doesn’t bother me to wear the neck guard, so I don’t see a reason not to wear it,” Koepke added. “It just seems like the right thing to do.”
Koepke has become the first Lightning player to wear a neck guard. Currently, the NHL doesn’t mandate players wearing a neck guard while on the ice. But the 25-year-old believes that more players will opt to wear them in the future.
During the second period of last month’s game between the Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers, Johnson was cut by the skate blade of Steelers forward Matt Petgrave following a collision. Johnson received medical treatment on the ice and was transported to an area hospital before he was pronounced dead.
The incident was initially described as a “freak accident,” but Petgrave was later arrested on suspicion of manslaughter. Petgrave has.