LONDON — Adam Johnson, a native of Minnesota and playing in the Elite Ice Hockey League in the United Kingdom, died in October after he was slashed in the neck by an opponent’s skate. Now police say they’ve arrested a man on suspicion of manslaughter.
Johnson, 29, was playing for the Nottingham Panthers against the Sheffield Steelers on Oct. 28 when he was struck by the skate of 31-year-old Matt Petgrave. A post-mortem examination confirmed he died as a result of a fatal neck injury, police said.
South Yorkshire Police did not name the suspect or provide his age, but said he was arrested on Tuesday and was released from custody after posting bail on Wednesday, the New York Post reported.
The grisly contact between Petgrave, who plays for Sheffield, and Johnson reverberated around the hockey community and led to moments of silence in the NHL.
Video (below) of the bizarre action shows Johnson skating with the puck toward the Steelers’ net. Petgrave skates toward Johnson and contacts another Panthers player. As the contact occurs, Petgrave’s left skate kicks up as he begins to fall and the blade strikes Johnson’s neck.
Matt Petgrave needs to be charged with manslaughter for killing Adam Johnson on the ice. What a dirty play. pic.twitter.com/Zvrj7Haz24
— Earl Joseph (@BigDaddyGirth) October 30, 2023
Johnson immediately collapsed, but was assisted to his feet and led towards the side of the rink by a teammate and a referee as blood covered the ice.
However, he collapsed before getting too far. Paramedics rushed to his aid and administered lifesaving efforts as players formed a protective ring around him to offer privacy. More than 8,000 fans at Utilita Arena watched in stunned disbelief.
The tragedy occurred during the 35th minute of the game, which was later suspended. Among the fans witnessing the horror was Johnson’s fiancee, Ryan Wolfe, who rushed to the ice to be by his side, the U.S. Sun reported.
The professional hockey player was then rushed to nearby hospital and underwent emergency surgery, but later died of his injuries, Law Officer previously reported.
As law enforcement authorities in South Yorkshire launched a criminal investigation, hockey experts were quick to defend Petgrave by saying the deadly contact was a “freak accident,” while others condemned the action as a crime.
Petgrave was said to be “absolutely distraught” following Johnson’s death.
“Our investigation launched immediately following this tragedy and we have been carrying out extensive inquiries ever since to piece together the events which led to the loss of Adam in these unprecedented circumstances,” Detective Chief Superintendent Becs Horsfall said.
If Petgrave is being prosecuted, it would not be the first time a hockey player faced criminal sanctions due to aggression that occurred during a game.
Since the turn of the century, two NHL players have been charged with a crime in Canada for action taken on the ice, the New York Post reported.
In 2000, Marty McSorley was found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon for a two-handed slash to the head of Donald Brashear with his stick.
As a result, he was sentenced to 18 months probation.
And despite a fighting culture in hockey with players frequently throwing blows, Todd Bertuzzi pleaded guilty in 2004 to assault for grabbing Steve Moore from behind and sucker punching him.
Hence, Bertuzzi pleaded guilty and was sentenced to one-year probation and 80 hours of community service.