Price, NHL Goalies Choose Comfort Over Safety?


By Steve Farnham,

MONTREAL, QC. — On Friday night in Ottawa, the Senators hosted the Montreal Canadiens, winning 2-1 in overtime.  Fans of Carey Price and the Habs got a bit of a scare when a hard shot puck hit the Canadiens franchise player high into the neck area, and he skated away in obvious pain. He would go on to be fine, a shot that most probably ricocheted off his helmet and into his collarbone, but it sparked a bit of a debate on whether Price should wear some type of neck protection, as currently he wears none.

(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)

It got me thinking to back when I was playing in Junior hockey. In the early part of one season, I would often get caught without my neck protector. I would get a warning from the referee as he would skate off to my bench and warn my coach as well. The referee would come back with the backup goalie’s neck protector and help me put it on. As the season went on, referees were on to me and not so lenient with my disregard for “safety.” At this point, I would sometimes get penalized, and once was forced to sit out one shift to put the neck protector on.

Keep in mind that at our level, we had to wear the “bavette,” or protective shield if you prefer that protects the entire neck area, but I hated to wear it which wrapped around my neck, if only those referees hadn’t caught on that my black turtleneck was only that, a turtleneck.

I despised wearing that neck protector with a passion for many reasons.

For one, I simply dislike having anything around my neck. I quickly feel asphyxiated and feel the need to simply tear whatever is there right off. The turtleneck I so happened to wear was very loose, which probably contributed to the fact referees were able to spot it wasn’t a neck protector in the first place.

Secondly, for anyone who has played hockey, you know that although you play on a cold sheet of ice, it quickly gets hot. I would get the impression that my body heat would rise faster with the neck protector on, while having it off felt like I could cool off more easily, feeling the cool air on my neck.

Last, simply put, the neck protector often got stuck between my helmet and chest guard. Especially in those situations where the opposing player is handling the puck behind the net, and you have to turn your head over your shoulder to track the puck behind the net, the neck would interfere with movement, as did the protector shield, but you can’t get away with not wearing that one.

If I had the choice, I would have played without the protector shield as well, the same way I do in garage leagues. As unsafe as this may sound, I choose to have added mobility, over the extra protection offered by both the neck protector and the protector shield.

I don’t feel that my actions are unsafe, as the goaltender position makes it that a shot can not hit you in the neck, as the helmet does in fact protect your entire face and neck, especially when the goalie in his basic stance, with the head more forward than the body.

Where the goaltender becomes more at risk, is freak accidents. The goaltender could fall to the ice and receive a shot while not in a proper position to make the save. We all remember what happened to Clint Malarchuk, back when he played for the Sabres, as a falling player’s skate cut his neck, and he was rushed to the hospital after bleeding all over the ice. Luckily, he survived the incident (and returned with the biggest and fattest neck protector you’ve ever seen), but it’s really the only time we ever saw such an incident involving the goaltender.

All this being said, it got to me wondering just how many NHL goaltenders wear neck protection? A few hours of research later, I have the results.

Here are some bullet point results for you:

  • Research Sample: 85 goaltenders who played at least one NHL game this season.

    (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Neck Guard:

  • 36 goaltenders wear a neck guard (42%)
  • 23 goaltenders wear a neck guard only (27%)

Protector Shield:

  • 38 goaltenders wear a protector shield (45%)
  • 24 goaltenders wear a protector shield only (28%)


  • 14 goaltenders wear both a neck guard and a protector shield (17%)


  • 24 goaltenders do not wear either a neck guard or a protector shield (28%)

Protection vs No Protection:

  • 61 goaltenders wear some type of protection, whether it be a neck guard, protector shield, or both (72%)
Margin of error for neck guards: 6%
(It’s difficult to tell in some cases whether it’s an actual neck guard or simply the lip from the chest protector)

A few things were astonishing for me upon seeing these results. For one, in both the case of the neck guard and protector shield, less than half the goaltenders wear them. Although you can say that almost three quarters of the goaltenders wear some type of protection, in reality, more goaltenders choose to wear no protection then those who choose to only wear a neck guard, or choose to wear the combination of both, and it was dead even when comparing with goaltenders who wear only the protector shield.

I’m sure each goaltender has their reasons, but overall, we see that it varies very much across the board.

When it comes to the players themselves, the results are much worse. After reviewing the entire Canadiens lineup, not one single player wears a neck guard (cue the Plekanec turtleneck jokes.) It makes me wonder if there’s a single player across the league that wears a neck protector, but I don’t have the answer to this question.

We often blame the league for not being serious enough when it comes to player safety, but when you think about it, are the players really anymore serious?



  1. You know, I was a left wing, not a goalie like you, but I HATED to wear that neck protection, so I can totally understand your point and relate to it.

    It’s just stupid when I come to think about it. I was protecting every inch of my body, even though it wasn’t always comfortable, but not my neck. Without any good reasons except the fact that I disliked it.

    Hockey players are special people, Martians if you ask me, it’s all in our heads. I’m still playing hockey and mostly ball hockey and I don’t protect my eyes, my teeth or my face… And I’m aware of the risks.

    Strange people I tell you. NHL should protect the players a little bit more. Goalies should wear at least the shield. Players should wear the visor, etc…

    Great post.

  2. What are the odds of getting you guys in ties?


    That said, I see your point(s).

    Great article, Steve.

  3. That’s another thing too! Depending on how tight a shirt is, sometimes I can’t tie the top button or else I feel choked, so usually my top shirt button is undone, and the tie is a little loose, not Brian Burke loosey goosey, but a little!

Comments are closed.