After Teddy Balkind death, USA Hockey has not required neck guards

The hockey world was grieving when the USA Hockey staff and volunteers gathered in Florida for the organization’s annual meetings seven months ago.

With the backdrop of an on-ice accident in Connecticut, USA Hockey officials huddled in Florida to discuss a litany of items. Among them, the use of neck laceration protectors and the governing body’s public view of the equipment.

Following Balkind’s death, USA Hockey has recommended the use of neck protectors, reinforcing that recommendation and the recommendation of wearing other gear like cut-resistant socks and sleeves that aims to protect players from skates. There has been discussion among those on the safety and protective equipment committee about mandating the use at all levels.

Yet, the organization that oversees rules for thousands of players across the country left Florida without issuing a mandate, deciding to “reinforce” the recommendation of neck guard use.

In an interview with CT Insider, Kevin Margarucci, USA Hockey’s manager of player safety, said the accident in Greenwich was very much on the front of minds at the January meeting. But the organization was not ready to change policy.

“There were heightened discussions after the tragic incident in Connecticut,” Margarucci said. “We haven’t closed the door on anything. But as of now, our information on the neck laceration protectors comes out of some of the research that was done and some of the only research that’s been done on neck laceration protectors.”

It’s still unclear whether Balkind was wearing a protector. A Greenwich Police report did not answer the question, but Balkind was not required by his prep school league to use the protective equipment.

Within days of Balkind’s death, a friend created a petition demanding USA Hockey mandate the use of neck protectors. The petition, still active, had more than 134,000 signatures as of Thursday.

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