By: Megan Saul
Media Production Editor
Adam Johnson, a former National Hockey League (NHL) player, though most recently an Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) player, died on Oct. 28 after a skate cut his neck, severing his carotid artery. Johnson’s team, the Nottingham Panthers, were playing in England against the Sheffield Steelers when an opponent, Matt Petgrave, collided with Johnson. As the collision occurred, Petgrave extended his foot, slicing Johnson’s neck.
On Nov. 14, police arrested and took an unidentified man into custody on suspicion of manslaughter. Although not stated, he is assumed to be Petgrave due to his involvement in the event. Becs Horsfall, the Yorkshire Police Department’s detective chief superintendent stated, “Our investigation launched immediately following this tragedy and we have been carrying out extensive inquiries ever since to piece together the events which led to the loss of Adam in these unprecedented circumstances.”
Following Johnson’s collapse, medical services immediately went onto the ice and gave him treatment and CPR. Soon after, paramedics rushed him to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital. Unfortunately, he died in the hospital that same day. The rest of the game and the games following the incident were postponed by the EIHL.
People worldwide, peers from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Nottingham Panthers mourn and remember Adam Johnson. A spokesperson for Johnson’s family shared that “Adam was a joyful, kind human being. He had a quiet unselfishness about him, but he was a guy you wanted to be around all of the time. He didn’t have to say much. You were a better person as a result of meeting him.”
The Penguins honored their former teammate during their game on Oct. 30 by playing the team’s third line, displaying a photo of Johnson, and having one last moment of celebration for his life. The coach of the Penguins, Mike Sullivan, stated that “it’s an incredible tragedy. He was a great kid. It was a privilege to be his coach.”
Johnson’s funeral was held in his hometown, Hibbing, Minnesota. His death affected many people including his teammates, family, and fans. Johnson’s widowed fiance, Ryan Wolfe, shared a heartwarming sentiment: “To me, you were everything. You were my home, my best friend, my sounding board, my rock, my safe haven and the love of my life. I’m never going to stop thinking about you, missing you and loving you until we can be together again. I love you.”
Due to the nature of Johnson’s death, The English Ice Hockey Association made a mandatory rule that all players must wear their neck guards at all times. This rule will be implemented in England at the beginning of 2024. This rule will ensure that no other unnecessary deaths will occur from a preventable issue. The hockey community will remember Adam Johnson’s tragic death as well as the inspiring person he was.
(Sources: CBC, CBS News, CNN, ESPN, Forbes, New York Post)