Hockey Player Dies in Match in England
Adam Johnson, “Prominent” American Ice Hockey Player, Dies in a “Strange Accident” During a Game
(CNN) — The death of Adam Johnson, an American ice hockey player, is currently under investigation by the police. Johnson tragically passed away on Saturday after a “strange accident” occurred during a match with the Nottingham Panthers in England.
During the second half of the Panthers’ game against the Sheffield Steelers, Johnson suffered a severe injury following a collision with a Steelers player. As a result, spectators were asked to leave Sheffield’s Utilita Arena, and the match was immediately abandoned. The Panthers confirmed Johnson’s death on Sunday, stating that it was a result of the accident. Johnson was only 29 years old.
Police Investigation and Ongoing Inquiries
The South Yorkshire Police (SYP) have launched an investigation into the incident. According to a police statement, they were alerted about the serious injury sustained by a player during the match between the Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers at the Utilita Arena in Sheffield on Saturday evening. Despite the efforts of emergency services, the player, in his 20s, was pronounced deceased at the hospital.
The SYP has concluded their on-site investigation but continues to conduct a broader inquiry due to the complex nature of this unprecedented incident. It is standard procedure for the police to thoroughly investigate unexpected and sudden deaths and communicate their findings to the coroner, who handles cases involving unnatural or unknown causes of death.
Support and Tributes
Sheffield City Council expressed their condolences and pledged their assistance in the investigation. Councilor Joe Otten, chair of Sheffield City Council’s Street Affairs and Waste Policy Committee, stated, “Our Health and Safety team is supporting the South Yorkshire Police investigation and will provide any necessary assistance.”
Supporters have left flowers outside Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena, where the Panthers play, and tributes have poured in from around the world. Johnson’s fiancée, Ryan Wolfe, shared a heartfelt message on her Instagram story, expressing her eternal love for him.
The Pittsburgh Penguins, Johnson’s former team in the National Hockey League (NHL), paid tribute to him during their game against the Anaheim Ducks. Players from both teams gathered at center ice, and fans were encouraged to stand and cheer in memory of Johnson. All players wore special stickers on their helmets with the initials “AJ 47” to honor him.
Commitment to Player Safety
The English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA), the governing body for ice hockey in England and Wales, released a statement emphasizing their dedication to improving player safety following Johnson’s tragic death. In the short term, the EIHA strongly recommended that all players at every level of English ice hockey wear neck protectors during on-field activities. Starting from January 1, neck protectors will become mandatory. The EIHA explained that the delayed implementation is due to anticipated supply issues.
The EIHA also announced a comprehensive review of player safety equipment, including helmets, mouthguards, gum shields, and face shields. They aim to provide clear guidance to their members on enhancing continuous and permanent player safety.
Suspension of Matches
The Nottingham Panthers have suspended their Elite Ice Hockey League matches for the week, as have the Sheffield Steelers, in light of Johnson’s passing.
Adam Johnson, originally from Hibbing, Minnesota, began his professional career in the American Hockey League before joining the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. He played 13 games over two seasons with the Penguins, scoring four points. Johnson also had stints in Sweden and Germany before signing with the Panthers for the 2023-24 season.