Fox 2 Sports
November 8, 2023
ST. LOUIS – Hockey can be a dangerous sport.
“We are basically skating on razor blades,” Mike Richards, the director of hockey at St. Louis Rockets Youth Hockey Club, said.
With players moving at high speeds and crashing into one another, “It can happen just like that.”
William Meyland-Smith plays for the club’s 8-and-under team.
“You could like fall on the ice and crack a bone,” Meyland-Smith said.
To keep himself protected, he wears all the usual gear, like elbow pads, a helmet, shin guards, and shoulder pads.
William and all the other 600 players in the club are now also wearing neck guards.
“Player safety is always on our mind,” Ron Skinner, the Rockets executive director, said.
According to Skinner, the Rockets are the first club team in the Missouri Hockey League to mandate neck guards. Neck guards are a relatively thick layer of material that is worn around the neck to prevent cuts and lacerations.
“I think that down the road we are going to look back and say, ‘I can’t believe everyone wasn’t wearing neck guards,’” Skinner said.
The decision comes following the death of former NHL pro Adam Johnson, who died on the ice on Oct. 28 when his neck was cut by a skate.
“If there is a turning point in player safety, I think the Adam Johnson incident will definitely be one,” Skinner said.
“I think it’s unfortunate, but this is how we learn,” Betsy Meyland-Smith said.
Meyland-Smith’s two sons play for the club’s 12-and-under and 8-and-under teams.
“I’m really proud of the Rockets for taking that initiative,” she said.
Skinner said he’s been in talks with other area hockey clubs to mandate the neck guards across the state.
“If we are all on the same page, and we are all consistent, I think it’s going to send a strong message to our kids,” Skinner said.
USA Hockey does recommend the use of neck guards but does not currently require them.