Protect Your Neck.
I don't really want to jump on the tragic bandwagon and talk about neckguards...but kinda feel I should.
Back in August of 2023, I put up a post on my personal Facebook page (which is public) basically stating something I'd noticed in all levels of hockey.
Little background on me for those that don't know -- I worked for over 20 season within the NY Rangers organization, mostly as the team photographer for their AHL affiliate. I've also worked for seven other AHL teams. I currently shoot for the FPHL's Danbury Hat Tricks. On top of that, I also attend (or LiveBarn) every squirt, peewee, and bantam game my children play in. Nearly 30 years of non-stop hockey around here.
Here's the text of my Facebook post and the image I shared a few months back:
Never thrilled to see my kid's face this close to a swinging skate blade.
I've been shooting hockey since 1997 for all four rungs of professional hockey all the way down to the mites. For the first 20 or so years, I'd capture maybe one image like this per season.
Now, it's every game, if not, every period. Right back up to the pro level.
This isn't a hockey has gone soft issue -- I'm fully on board with fighting being part of the game. I'm just not really into the skate blades at face level trend. I've fallen backwards plenty of times in my life but don't recall throwing my legs into the air. It's not physics, it's a willful act, flopping around like that.
This is why my kids wear neck guards and more and more youth leagues are requiring them. I know, I don't like them either but until players stop throwing their legs in the air -- soccer embellishment style -- every single time they fall down, players are gonna get cut.
I wish there were some quick solution to curb this. Like, kicking in hockey gets you thrown out because it's really dangerous. As such, you very rarely see it and usually only at the mite level.
Something like this should almost "borrow" from, ugh, youth soccer. I can't believe I just said that but, USA Hockey, if a player's skate comes up this high, it should be 2 minutes for a dangerous play at the youth levels. C'mon, a player's skate should never be near the head or neck of an upright player.
Now, I'm not asking you to go hunting for the video of the latest on-ice tragedy, the circumstances don't matter, and I don't believe for even a second that there was any willful intent but, again, what is with the wild body flailing nonsense?
That part is deliberate.
When did that start?
That's the problem. That's 100% of the problem.
In the game of hockey, your feet should NEVER be that high up. EVER.
If you see your kid flopping around with their feet in the air, call them on it. Make dolphin noises. Embarrass them!
Sychnronized swimming and gymnastics are the only two sports I can think of where your feet should be up in the air -- and neither of those sports involve sharpened steel.
Perhaps learn to play programs should start teaching the kids how to fall rather than how to get back up quickly.
- - - - - - - - - -
My kids all wear neckguards.
They all wear the same model from SkateArmor -- and have been since 2018, I'd guess.
Prior to that, they wore a similar model, long discontinued, manufactured by Easton.
This isn't an ad. I'm not getting anything for free. No kickback if you order one.
Plain and simple, SkateArmor has the best and most comfortable product out there.
There is no competition.
Your kid will not complain about comfort.
They might complain about teammates poking fun...and to that, I say, force your kid to grow some thicker skin.
Who cares what the self proclaimed "tough guys" think. They're all wearing a cage out there -- nobody's a tough guy...
Insert the dolphin noises here...again.
And, sorry folks, those base layer shirts with a mock turtleneck are a farce.
They're not covering anything.
You know it.
I know it.
The manufacturers know it too.
Unfortunately, everytime something like this occurs, SkateArmor neck guards sell out.
But that's a good thing.
This past weekend, my middle son let three of his teammates wear his "spare" neck guards when the news spread.
The same weekend he forgot his hockey pants for a game. That's right, we have 4 neck guards in his bag and just one pair of pants.
That's how important they are.
And, for a little while, more kids will wear them.
They've been mandatory here in Connecticut for over a year -- we had a local tragedy in 2022 -- but it's hardly enforced...already.
And if an opponent is from out of state, they're exempt. Not kidding.
One team has to wear them...the other does not.
I'm hoping it sticks this time.
Wear a neckguard. Please.
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