A little over a year ago, T.J. Oshie discovered a story about a young boy who suffered a neck injury from a skate blade during a youth hockey game. As a response, Oshie contacted his partners at Warroad, the hockey apparel company he co-founded six years ago. Initially, Warroad focused on creating comfortable undershirts, but they soon shifted their focus to developing cut-resistant fabrics to protect vulnerable areas of players’ bodies.
Oshie had a specific request for turtlenecks that would provide protection for the neck, particularly the carotid artery. Warroad successfully designed “tilo” turtlenecks with cut-resistant panels built into the fabric. However, despite their effectiveness, Oshie noted that no NHL players, including himself, wear neck guards or turtlenecks. Their reasons vary, such as concerns about the heat in NHL rinks, superstitions, and a belief that neck guards do not look cool.
However, Oshie’s perspective changed after learning about the tragic death of Adam Johnson, a former NHL player who was cut by a skate blade during a game in England. Oshie ordered five Tilo turtlenecks for himself and his teammates to try. He hopes to raise awareness about the risks and potentially preventable injuries associated with playing hockey.
Other players, like Jason Dickinson, have had close calls with skate blade injuries. Dickinson accidentally cut Jakub Lauko with his skate during a game, narrowly avoiding a severe eye injury. These incidents highlight the need for increased protection in hockey, challenging the notion that such injuries are solely “freak” accidents.
Hayley Wickenheiser, an emergency physician and assistant general manager, expressed the importance of making neck protection more mainstream in the sport. While severe injuries are rare, many players have stories of near-misses. The NHL should follow the lead of lower leagues where neck protection is mandatory.
Luke Richardson, a veteran NHL player and coach, emphasized the importance of Oshie’s company and suggested that with time, neck protection will become normalized in the NHL. Similar to the gradual adoption of helmets and visors in the past, mandatory neck protection in lower leagues may eventually reach the NHL.
Overall, players and professionals in the hockey community recognize the need for increased protection and the potential role turtlenecks and neck guards could play in preventing serious injuries.