For Lightning’s Cole Koepke, choice to put on neck safety is private
TAMPA — Lightning ahead Cole Koepke is the primary Tampa Bay participant to put on cut-resistant neck safety following the demise of Adam Johnson final month. Johnson, a former NHL participant, had his neck minimize by the skate of one other participant throughout a sport in England’s Elite Ice Hockey League.
For Koepke, the tragedy really hit residence. He was Johnson’s buddy. He missed enjoying school hockey with Johnson at Minnesota-Duluth by a yr, however ran in the identical social circles with Johnson and labored out with him within the offseason.
“It’s horrible it occurred,” Koepke stated after Monday morning’s skate at Amalie Area. “It’s one thing you don’t actually suppose can occur. … And if it’s one thing that’s so easy to put on and get an additional layer of safety, simply for my part, why not do it? Clearly, everyone seems to be sufficiently old to make their very own choices, however I simply thought if it’s one thing that doesn’t hassle me, it simply appears sort of like the appropriate factor to do for me, personally.”
“I feel it makes you much more grateful to play the sport,” he added. “All of the occasions that you just lace up your skates and play, from being a child till now, it’s one thing you don’t ever consider that would occur.”
The demise of Johnson, fatally injured Oct. 28 whereas enjoying for the Nottingham Panthers in the UK’s prime skilled league, has sparked debate on whether or not neck safety must be extra extensively mandated throughout all ranges of the game.
Koepke, with the Lightning after being recalled Saturday, was driving to the rink for his sport at AHL Syracuse when considered one of his pals advised him Johnson had been in injured; he didn’t know the severity of the incident till after the sport.
“I used to be simply shook,” he stated. “You may hardly put it into phrases. … It’s the sport we love and have been enjoying perpetually and it’s simply horrible.”
Although not on the identical time, Koepke and Johnson each performed for a similar USHL juniors workforce in Sioux Metropolis, Iowa. Koepke’s household was near Winnipeg defenseman Neal Pionk, considered one of Johnson’s greatest pals, and considered one of Koepke’s school roommates at Minnesota-Duluth, Blues defenseman Scott Perunovich, was from Johnson’s hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota.
“He’s only a nice man,” Koepke stated of Johnson. “He’s at all times completely satisfied on the rink. He’s simply at all times sort of supplying you with a little bit jab on the ice and he’s only a nice individual. He was a terrific participant, however I feel everybody that knew him knew the influence he may have on individuals. I simply need them to recollect how wonderful an individual he was.”
Koepke now wears a cut-resistant Bauer base layer that has safety round his neck that straps within the again. He stated it’s not a lot completely different than the normal base layer and after sporting it a number of occasions, he’s gotten used to it.
“It was fairly simple,” Koepke stated. “You don’t suppose it will possibly occur to anybody, not to mention somebody you recognize. And to see the way it affected so many individuals … and simply seeing the influence of it and the whole lot, it doesn’t hassle me to put on the neck guard. I don’t see a purpose for me to not put on it. It simply looks as if the appropriate factor to do.”
Neither the NHL or AHL mandates using cut-resistant neck safety, however following Johnson’s demise, the NHL stated it was planning extra conversations about protecting gear. Regionally, Statewide Newbie Hockey of Florida mandated neck safety for all gamers, together with all members within the Lightning Excessive Faculty Hockey League, beginning Jan. 1.
Many present NHLers needed to put on neck safety arising by Canadian junior leagues, and main junior leagues in Ontario and Quebec required neck guards as nicely, however few have began sporting them since Johnson’s demise.
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