In a tragic turn of events that has shocked the international ice hockey community, police in Sheffield, England, have arrested a man on suspicion of manslaughter following the death of former NHL player Adam Johnson. The 29-year-old American, who recently played for the Nottingham Panthers, suffered a fatal neck injury during a game against the Sheffield Steelers on October 28.
South Yorkshire Police confirmed the arrest in a statement issued Tuesday, stating the suspect is currently in custody. Detective Chief Superintendent Becs Horsfall, leading the investigation, highlighted the extensive inquiries being undertaken to understand the events leading to Johnson’s untimely demise. “Adam’s death has sent shockwaves through many communities, from our local residents here in Sheffield to ice hockey fans across the world,” Horsfall said, urging the public to refrain from speculation that could hinder the police investigation.
The incident occurred at Sheffield’s Utilita Arena, witnessed by approximately 8,000 fans. Johnson sustained a catastrophic cut to his neck from the skate blade of another player, leading to immediate efforts by fellow players and medical personnel to save his life on the ice.
A post-mortem examination confirmed Johnson died from the neck injury. He was a native of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and had a brief stint in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019 and 2020. Following his time in the NHL, Johnson continued his career in Europe, playing in the Swedish Hockey League, the American Hockey League, Germany’s Deutsche Eishockey Liga, and finally, the Elite Ice Hockey League in the UK.
The incident, described as a “freak accident” by the Nottingham Panthers, has sparked a broader discussion on player safety. In a prevention of future deaths report, coroner Tanyka Rawden called for the compulsory use of neck guards in ice hockey. While the Elite Ice Hockey League has stopped short of making neck guards mandatory, it strongly encourages their use. The English Ice Hockey Association announced that neck guards would be compulsory from 2024 onwards.
Adam Johnson’s tragic death has caused an outpouring of grief from ice hockey fans worldwide, a testament to the sport’s tightly-knit community and the impact Johnson had during his career. His inquest was opened and adjourned earlier this month, with further details pending as the investigation continues.