Fmr NHL player Clint Malarchuk on neck guard decision

A former NHL player who had his neck cut during a televised game 35 years ago says a new high school hockey mandate regarding neck guards is a welcome change, but he’s disappointed it took this long.

"It's about damn time," said Clint Malarchuk a former goalie for the Buffalo Sabres.

In 1989, Malarchuk took a blade to the neck during a televised game. Thanks to quick action by team medics, Malarchuk survived the injury but has advocated for neck guards ever since.

"Had I died, maybe they would have implemented this way back then," said Malarchuk. 

The National Federation of State High School Associations announced Thursday the rule change, which mandates high school hockey players nationwide wear neck protection during games. The Minnesota State High School League confirmed it will adopt the change.

The news comes nearly seven months after the on-ice death of Minnesota native Adam Johnson. Johnson was playing professional hockey overseas when another player's skate cut his neck during a game and killed him.

"At the pace that they play now, extra precaution in my mind is the best way to go," he said. "It will save lives."

The NFHS joins USA Hockey, which mandated neck protectors for players under the age of 18 recently. But, the National Hockey League continues to make the protective gear optional.

Malarchuk hopes it doesn’t take another tragedy for the NHL to get on board.

"I don’t know what it will take. Hopefully not another death," he said.