Several years ago, Ross Longbottom was playing hockey when he got hit in the neck with a stick. It was accidental, Longbottom said, but it left a mark.
“It could have been worse. I went, ‘OK, that’s it. I’m gonna get a neck guard.'” He bought one made by Hamilton-based Aegis Impact Protection and hasn’t thought much about it since. Until recently.
This past Sunday, the Dundas resident was showing off his neck guard at a game with the Regional Non-contact Hockey League. In fact, Longbottom said, neck protection has been “the talk of the dressing room,” after the on-ice death of former NHL player Adam Johnson due to a neck injury.
For the company that made Longbottom’s neck guard, the result of the increased attention on neck protection has been a boom in sales — a phenomenon at least one other seller is reporting.
“We’ve had our best sales week ever since we’ve started our business,” Aegis owner Joe Camillo said. “People feel it’s sad that it took this tragic death … to really bring to light the importance of adequate protection.”
Since Johnson’s death last week, a number of local and international hockey organizations that did not mandate neck protection have either done so, or are considering the possibility.
Featured VideoJoe Camillo owns Hamilton-based Aegis Impact Protection, which makes hockey neck guards. They’ve experienced a run on their product in the wake of a hockey player’s death from a neck injury on the ice.
Camillo, who also owns an apparel company, said he got interested in designing a neck guard when his kids were playing hockey because he found that piece of equipment lacking in comparison to other gear.
The Aegis neck guard, which launched in 2012, is slash and impact resistant, he said, using a material that hardens on impact.
Normalizing neck protection
Since Johnson’s death, Camillo said the company has received orders from all over the world and sold most of their stock. “We’ve sold thousands of pieces in a span of eight days.”
He says it seems neck guards, which were already standard in many hockey settings, are becoming even more normalized, like seatbelts or bike helmets.
“Before, you would ride a bike and you’d never think twice about putting a helmet on. Now, you’d never think twice about having it on.”
He says objections to wearing them may include comfort, aesthetics or feeling the gear isn’t cool. His product is very comfortable, he says, and he believes more pro players wearing neck guards will help with any image issues.
Longbottom says he doesn’t know why he didn’t wear a neck guard until recently. “I just hadn’t thought too much about it,” he said. But now, “I think everyone should wear it.”
And, in his experience, other players are thinking similarly. “I would say at least half the players [in my dressing room] were talking about it and two or three of them said they’re getting one for sure.”