Man arrested over death of ice hockey player Adam Johnson in Sheffield

Man arrested over death of ice hockey player Adam Johnson in Sheffield

A man has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter following the death of professional ice hockey player Adam Johnson.

Mr Johnson, 29, was seriously injured during a Challenge Cup match between his Nottingham Panthers team and Sheffield Steelers on 28 October.

The American’s neck was cut by the skate blade of another player on the ice in Sheffield and he was later pronounced dead in hospital.

Flowers and messages were left in tribute to Mr Johnson outside the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham, where the Panthers are based

A post-mortem examination confirmed the Minnesota-born star died as a result of a fatal neck injury.

The crowd of 8,000 spectators at Sheffield’s Utilita Arena watched in horror as desperate attempts were made to save his life as he lay on the ice, shielded by fellow players.

The game was abandoned and spectators were asked to leave in the aftermath.

Mr Johnson’s aunt, Kari Johnson, told Sky News on Tuesday the family was “doing terribly because of the senseless tragedy”.

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“We just want our boy back and we know we can’t have him.”

The American joined the Panthers in August having previously played in Germany and Sweden as well as in the US National Hockey League (NHL).

Pittsburgh Penguins' Adam Johnson plays against the Columbus Blue Jackets during an NHL preseason hockey game, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Pic: AP

South Yorkshire Police said the suspect, whose name has not been released, remains in custody after being arrested on Tuesday.

Detective Chief Superintendent Becs Horsfall said: “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.”

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Ms Johnson was watching her nephew play for the Panthers via a livestream with his father and grandmother when he was fatally injured.

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‘He was such a kind soul’

Speaking from Minnesota, Ms Johnson previously told Sky News: “It was terrible, it was horrific, we didn’t know what to do.” There was “nothing we could do”, she said.

She also described how the family “broke down” after hearing he had died.

She said: “It was a mess, it was a nightmare, it was like it wasn’t real. We were in shock, we couldn’t believe this was happening.”

Ms Johnson described her nephew as a “kind soul” and a “private kid” who would “never would have wanted to be in the limelight like this”.

He simply wanted to be “good at hockey and have fun”, she said, adding he was “having the time of his life in the UK” and was planning to get engaged to his girlfriend.

An inquest into Mr Johnson’s death was opened and adjourned on 3 November, but Sheffield’s senior coroner, Tanyka Rawden, has already called on the sport’s governing bodies to take action.

In a Prevention of Future Deaths Report to Ice Hockey UK and the English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA), Ms Rawden said she was “sufficiently concerned that deaths may occur in the future if neck guards or protectors are not worn”.

The EIHA said neck guards will become mandatory from 2024, but the Elite League is not under its control.

The Elite Ice Hockey League, in which the Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers compete, has said it will not make the use of neck guards mandatory but will “strongly encourage” players and officials to wear them following the tragedy.