A former NHL player has died at 29 after a “freak accident” during an Elite Ice Hockey League game in England on Saturday.
Adam Johnson, who appeared in 13 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2018 to 2020, was playing for the Nottingham Panthers in the second period of a Challenge Cup game against the Sheffield Steelers when he was struck in the neck by an opponent’s skate blade.
While the incident has been described as a “freak accident,” gruesome video footage of the play calls the opponent’s intent into question. The league has not disclosed whether it is considering further disciplinary action.
According to Fox News, referees removed both teams from the ice, and Johnson was taken to Northern General Hospital in Sheffield after receiving emergency treatment on the ice.
Reportedly, the arena requested that the nearly 8,000 fans in attendance vacate the premises.
The Nottingham club later announced that Johnson had died from the injury, and, according to BBC News, his teammates left flowers outside their home arena to honor his memory.
“The Nottingham Panthers are truly devastated to announce that Adam Johnson has tragically passed away following a freak accident at the game in Sheffield last night,” a statement from the Panthers posted on social media read on Sunday.
“The Panthers would like to send out thoughts and condolences to Adam’s family, his partner, and all his friends at this extremely difficult time. Everyone at the club, including players, staff, management, and ownership, are heartbroken at the news of Adam’s passing.”
“Rest in peace Adam,” the statement concluded.
Johnson was in his first season with the Panthers after moving his career overseas in 2020. He also played in Sweden and Germany.
The EIHL postponed all games scheduled for Sunday after the incident, and Nottingham postponed its Tuesday game.
The Pittsburgh Penguins also paid tribute to their former player, and head coach Mike Sullivan took the time to reflect on his time spent coaching Johnson when he spoke to the media on Monday.
“It’s an incredible tragedy,” Sullivan said. “He was a great kid. It was a privilege to be his coach. … I remember his first game and his first goal in Minnesota. He was a great kid, a great player. And boy, he could really skate.”