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Police are investigating the horrific death of an ice hockey player whose throat was slashed by an opponent’s stray boot blade during a game in Sheffield.
Adam Johnson, of Nottingham Panthers, was struck in the neck by Sheffield Steelers’ Matt Petgrave, who appeared to lose his footing after tripping in a prior collision.
As thousands of traumatised spectators looked on, teammates formed a ring around Johnson on the ice in the immediate aftermath before protective screens were raised. Johnson had come into contact with Petgrave’s raised left leg in a coming together near the centre line.
Seasoned observers say the kick was unintentional and a host of figures in the game sent messages of support to Petgrave.
However, South Yorkshire Police confirmed in a statement on Sunday that officers are trying to piece together exactly what happened in an incident described as “freak” by Johnson’s club.
“Our officers remain at the scene carrying out inquiries today and our investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident remain ongoing,” the force said.
Spectators at the Utilita Arena had been left in tears as Johnson was seen with blood pouring down his jersey before skating away and subsequently collapsing. On Sunday, Johnson’s mother Kari announced on Facebook that she had lost “half of my heart” as it was confirmed the American had died, aged 29.
Adam Johnson in action for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017.Credit: AP
His club added in a statement it was “truly devastated to announce that Adam Johnson has tragically passed away following a freak accident at the game in Sheffield”.
The game was stopped in the 35th minute as Johnson initially received emergency treatment.
David Simms, the match announcer, posted on X: “Just a horrible night at the arena, tragic. Our thoughts go to Adam’s family, friends and teammates. Nothing can prepare you for something like this. To Steelers fans, we will do everything we can to ensure Matt Petgrave and the team are looked after in the best possible way.”
He added: “Seeing the players, staff and medical staff from both clubs last night all working together as one was something I will never forget, the effort they all made was outstanding.”
Yorkshire Ambulance Service said it was called about 8.20pm before sending two ambulances and a critical care paramedic. Johnson was later taken to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital.
Police added later: “We were called at 8.25pm yesterday 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.”
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