The hockey community across the country is still grappling with the tragic death of high school hockey player Teddy Balkind. There’s been an outpouring of support from local schools to NHL stars.
The St. Luke’s sophomore passed away last week after an accident during a JV hockey game against the Brunswick School in Greenwich and another skater cut his neck with his skate blade.
Amid the support, one of Balkind’s friends is calling for action. Sam Brande, a high school hockey player in Massachusetts, started a petition on Change.org for USA Hockey to require neck guards for youth hockey. Right now neck guards are just highly recommended.
Brande, who has Balkind's initials on his stick, said the next time he took the ice after Balkind's death, he made sure to find his neck guard, which he hadn’t worn in quite some time.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference requires neck guards for competition but does not govern private schools. St. Luke’s is a part of the New England Preparatory School Council, which recommends but does not require neck guards.
“NEPSAC continues to extend its support and care to the St. Luke’s and Brunswick School communities," the organization said in a statement to NBC Connecticut. "Nothing is more important to NEPSAC than fostering an athletic experience that is both enriching and safe. As is our charge, NEPSAC continually examines rules of play that govern our sports in partnership with our Sport Medicine Advisory Committee. As always, we will share more with our community should our standards change."
At the time of this writing, Brande's petition has more than 65,000 signatures.
I told my parents right away, I'm getting the rule changed,” said Brande, who is a sophomore at Wayland High School in Massachusetts. “And then I thought to myself 'there's no way it's going to change if it’s just one kid emailing 12 times a day.' The reason I’m pushing for neck guards is not because I blame Teddy for not wearing one. It should have been a rule that USA Hockey had in place years before.”