30 October 2023

Police investigate ice hockey player’s ‘freak accident’ death

30 October 2023

Police were investigating the “freak accident” which killed ice hockey player Adam Johnson as his fiancee called him “my sweet angel” in a poignant tribute.

Following the tragedy on Saturday night, NIHL team Oxford City Stars, who have former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech on their roster, announced their players must wear neck guards at all times on the ice.

Johnson, 29, was playing for the Nottingham Panthers in a Challenge Cup match at the Sheffield Steelers’ home when he reportedly suffered a slashed neck following a collision.

The crowd of 8,000 spectators watched in horror as desperate attempts were made to save the American’s life.

The Nottingham Panthers described the incident as a “freak accident” when the club confirmed his death on Sunday.

A South Yorkshire Police spokesperson said: “We were called at 8.25pm on Saturday 28 October to reports that a player had been seriously injured during a Sheffield Steelers versus Nottingham Panthers game at the Utilita Arena in Sheffield.

“Officers attended the scene alongside other emergency services and one man, aged in his 20s, was taken to hospital with serious injuries.

“Sadly, he was later pronounced deceased at hospital.

“Our officers remain at the scene carrying out inquiries and our investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident remain ongoing.

“We would encourage the public to avoid speculation regarding the incident while we continue our inquiries.”

Sheffield City Council’s health and safety team was assisting the police.

Meanwhile, the player’s fiancee Ryan Wolfe paid tribute on Instagram, saying: “My sweet angel, I’ll miss you forever and love you always.”

Following the tragedy, Oxford City Stars who play in the National Ice Hockey League South Division 1 brought in mandatory neck guards for players and coaches alike.

Shane Moore, director of hockey operations, said safety must be a priority.

He said: “A life has tragically been taken too soon in a freak accident, and if wearing neck guards can prevent another devastating loss, then we want to ensure we have done everything within our power to protect our players.”

Fans gathered at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena to pay tribute with flowers and cards.

Steelers fan Gary Hibbert was at the game and said: “I have come to pay my respects.

“It is heart-breaking.

“My kids absolutely love ice hockey and they have both been absolutely heart-broken after Saturday’s game, as we all are.”

Speaking of the incident in which Minnesota-born Johnson was injured, he said: “My initial thought was he had a stick to the face, as it happens.

“Within two, three, four seconds we have seen the pool of blood.”

Mr Hibbert said Johnson had skated off for a moment after the collision before he collapsed.

The fan said he then shielded his son as best he could from the tragedy unfolding on the ice.

Simon Robertson described Johnson as a “magnificent” player, who had competed in the US and Europe before coming to Nottingham.

“He was a hell of a good player, committed and really good at what he did,” he said.

“It is going to affect a lot of people, you can see from all the flowers.

“It’s a community, it’s a family.”

He said the Panthers and Steelers were rivals as well as close neighbours, and two top teams.

“At times like this we come together and are friends,” he said.

His daughter Hollie Robertson added: “He was an amazing player who really brought something to the team.”

More tributes were left at Sheffield’s area, with one card saying: “To a young man who came to Sheffield on a Saturday night to do his job and play for his team, left the arena fighting for his life, and didn’t return home with his team mates RIP Adam Johnson #47.”

Ontario Reign paid tribute to their former player before the club’s American Hockey League game against the Abbotsford Canucks on Sunday. Johnson’s name was announced to the crowd as his number 49 jersey was placed on a chair in the middle of the ice.

Every Ontario player touched the jersey in a moving gesture.

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