Arrest made in death of NHL player who had his neck sliced during game, controversy continues


More than two weeks after a professional hockey player’s on-ice death, an arrest was made for manslaughter.

On Oct. 28, 29-year-old Adam Johnson of the Nottingham Panthers took a fatal slash to the throat, reportedly from the skate of opposing player Matt Petgrave of the Sheffield Steelers. Tuesday, though the name of the arrestee was not supplied by the South Yorkshire Police, a statement was released detailing that an arrest was made and the suspect remained in custody.

According to the police, “Detectives have today arrested a man on suspicion of manslaughter. He remains in police custody at this time.”

“On Saturday 28 October, Adam, aged 29, was seriously injured during a game between Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers and was sadly later pronounced deceased in hospital,” authorities further detailed. “A post-mortem examination confirmed he died as a result of a fatal neck injury.”

A clip of the incident that had taken place on live TV showed the unusual motion taken by Petgrave which critics described as an attempt to kick at Johnson and no mere accident.

As part of the statement by authorities, Detective Chief Superintendent Becs Horsfall expressed, “Our investigation launched immediately following this tragedy and we have been carrying out extensive enquiries ever since to piece together the events which led to the loss of Adam in these unprecedented circumstances.”

“We have been speaking to highly specialised experts in their field to assist in our enquiries and continue to work closely with the health and safety department at Sheffield City Council, which is supporting our ongoing investigation,” he continued.

The chief further added, “Adam’s death has sent shockwaves through many communities, from our local residents here in Sheffield to ice hockey fans across the world. We know these communities will expect us to handle this investigation with the same professionalism, fairness and sensitivity as any other and request that members of the public refrain from comment and speculation which could hinder this process.”

While Petgrave had been sidelined from play and was described as “absolutely distraught,” his image had been displayed at a Sunday game where many of the reported 8,000 fans in attendance appeared to unite behind their team.

A memorial tribute had been offered to Johnson as he was honored with a moment of silence, a video montage, and cheers from the arena.

Likewise, the Panthers, who had referred to the incident as a “freak accident” in their own statement, had found a number of ways to honor their player including a memorial jersey, fundraiser and temporary on-ice installment in memoriam.

Social media responded to the news of the arrest:

The league has since determined that it will “strongly encourage” players to wear neck guards as the coroner had stated in part, “I am sufficiently concerned that deaths may occur in the future if neck guards or protectors are not worn.”


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Kevin Haggerty
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