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NHL star launches own cut-proof equipment company

Published October 31, 2023 at 4:51 PM

Back in the 1980s, the NHL was known for its helmet-wearing rebels. Fast forward to today, and TJ Oshie, an NHL star, is taking the initiative to enhance player safety in a different way.

The tragic incident involving Adam Johnson has led to players like Oshie rethinking safety measures. Notably, Hayley Wickenheiser, a respected figure in hockey, emphasized that such accidents are not as rare as they may seem.

Oshie's company, Warroad, has responded to the need for increased protection. They now manufacture protective equipment aimed at preventing neck injuries in hockey.

Hayley Wickenheiser, a Team Canada legend, assistant general manager for the Toronto Maple Leafs and emergency physician, bristled at the depiction of such incidents as «freak» occurrences.

«I don't think this is a freak thing, I think it happens quite a lot,» she said. «It's just the injuries are superficial, or the players are lucky. This isn't something that doesn't happen; it happens a lot in hockey. Sticks come up, skates come up, and the neck is very susceptible. So whatever we can do to make (neck protection) more mainstream and just part of the equipment, the better for the future of the game. It just makes sense to me.»

Despite owning a company that produces cut-resistant shirts, Oshie, like many players, didn't use them until recently. After Johnson's unfortunate passing, he ordered five of these protective shirts.

TJ Oshie has a company that makes cut-resistant shirts to protect hockey players' necks. But even he never wears it.

After Adam Johnson's death, he ordered five of them.

This is what he told me on his drive to the rink for yesterday's Caps game:

«Because they're stubborn,» said one NHL equipment manager, who was granted anonymity so he could speak freely. «It's a monkey-see, monkey-do league. All it would take is one guy to wear it. Then two days to get used to it.»

One NHL equipment manager expressed his frustration, citing stubbornness as the reason players often resist new safety measures. He believes that all it would take is one player to set the example, and others would follow suit.

To address player concerns about comfort, Oshie's company developed shirts that are non-itchy and non-irritating. The push for safety seems to outweigh aesthetic considerations among the players.

«It's not a cool look having neck guards on,» Oshie said. «For whatever reason, it's just not something that's sleek and looks great.»

«You just put one on,» she said. «I wore one for 20 years with the national team, it didn't interfere with anything I did. It's just like anything else, when one player does it, everyone sees it and it becomes normal. I can't even remember hockey without visors now, and I grew up watching the world of hockey without visors. I can't even imagine not playing with a visor with how fast the game is.»

Oshie admitted that neck guards may not be the most stylish gear on the ice, but he recognizes their importance. Wearing protective equipment should become as normal as donning visors, a change that took time but eventually became part of the game.

«There are options out there, and it's not a bad idea at all,» Dickinson said. «It's about awareness. And events like (Saturday) night, events like Kane's, like Karlsson's — those really make guys think and get them worried. It's definitely something I'd consider now. I mean, who cares what it looks like? Looking lame and living is a lot better than the opposite.»

While some players prioritize appearances over safety, it's clear that protecting players' health on the ice is a crucial step forward. As more discussions arise regarding safety equipment in the NHL, the focus on ensuring player well-being remains paramount.
October 31   |   191 answers
NHL star launches own cut-proof equipment company

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