Tributes to Adam Johnson at arena after hockey star's 'freak accident'
Heartbroken fans pay tribute to Adam Johnson inside Nottingham arena after the ice hockey star, 29, was killed in freak accident in front of 8,000 shocked onlookers
- Scores of fans gather at Motorpoint Arena to leave tributes for Panthers player
- READ MORE: Inquest into death of ice hockey star to open after horror accident
Scores of ice hockey fans have gathered at an arena in Nottingham to remember player Adam Johnson after his death in a ‘freak accident’ that saw his throat cut open by the skate of another player.
Nottingham Panthers player Johnson, 29, suffered the grave injury to his neck in front of 8,000 people in scenes that were also broadcast live across the world – including to horrified members of his family – on October 28.
He was struck in the neck by the blade of the boot worn by Sheffield Steelers player Matt Petgrave; the Panthers have described the incident as a ‘freak accident’.
Saturday saw fans and Panthers players and staff gather at the Motorpoint Arena to remember Johnson, who was pronounced dead upon his arrival at hospital, leaving floral tributes and signing a book of condolence for his family.
A huge number of flowers and floral arrangements were laid outside the arena in Bolero Square, while fans were invited into the arena and onto the ice to sign the book, with another ledger open in the main foyer.
Floral tributes were left for Adam Johnson outside the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham on Saturday
Fans embrace as they look at tributes to Adam Johnson outside the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham
Johnson, 29, died after his throat was cut open by the blade of a rival player in what has been described as a ‘freak accident’ in a match against the Sheffield Steelers on October 28
Fans queued up on the ice inside the Nottingham Arena to sign a book of condolence
Floral tributes – including an ornate recreation of Johnson’s shirt – were left outside the arena by heartbroken fans
The incident happened at Utilita Arena Sheffield (pictured) and is believed to have been witnessed by around 8,000 fans
Fans could be seen hugging and wiping away tears as they looked at the tributes and lined up on the ice to sign the condolence book.
Panthers fan Michelle Hallam had attended the fateful match with her young son and 40 of his classmates, making sure he put his head down when it became clear Johnson had been grievously injured.
She told BBC News her son ‘wanted to see all the tributes’ despite what had happened, adding that he was ‘on edge’ just walking near the arena.
READ MORE: Adam Johnson’s devastated fiancee Ryan Wolfe had to identify ice hockey star’s body after opponent’s skate slit his throat in front of 8,000 shocked fans, inquest hears
Steelers fan Ronnie Wooley added: ‘Everybody’s in shock because it was an absolute tragedy…Everybody’s coming together because ice hockey fans are like one big family.’
The Panthers said in a statement issued earlier on Saturday that the tragedy was ‘still very raw’ for players and staff. A two minute silence was scheduled for 8.20pm.
The team said: ‘If you have been affected by the game last weekend and the loss of Adam – and you feel that you may need some additional help and support – local mental health charities will be in the Motorpoint Arena foyer for those that want to have a conversation.’
American player Johnson was playing for the Panthers against the Steelers when he was struck in the neck by Matt Petgrave following a collision on the ice; the horrific scenes were witnessed by some 8,000 fans inside the arena and on a livestream.
His aunt, Kari Johnson, was watching him play for the Nottingham Panthers alongside his father and grandmother via the stream in the US when he was fatally injured.
She told Sky News: ‘It was terrible, it was horrific, we didn’t know what to do.
‘It means a lot to us to see how much everybody thought of our boy.’
National ice hockey league games have been suspended since Johnson’s death, with matches set to resume today – with all teams save for Nottingham and Sheffield expected to compete.
Matt Petgrave, 31, pictured, was involved in the collision with Johnson; the skating community has rallied around the Canadian in sympathy
Adam Johnson and Ryan Wolfe (pictured together) had been due to become engaged
Johnson’s girlfriend Ryan Wolfe, who moved to the UK with him this year and had to identify his body at the hospital, shared a photo on Instagram: ‘My sweet, sweet angel. I’ll miss you for ever and love you always’
Before the Pittsburgh Penguins’s game against the Anaheim Ducks last night, both teams joined together for a tribute to Mr Johnson, who appeared in 13 NHL games with the Penguins
Johnson was also honoured ahead of the game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night
Johnson has been remembered across the world following the incident, with alumni the Pittsburgh Penguins taking a moment to remember him ahead of a game against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday.
Calls have been made for neck guards to be made mandatory in professional ice hockey but the Elite Ice Hockey League – the top professional league in the UK – says it will only ‘strongly encourage’ players and officials to wear them.
The EIHL said yesterday: ‘The Elite Ice Hockey League strongly encourages players and officials to wear one and clubs and the League will continue to support players and officials to do so.’
The English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA), however, has since said neck guards will become mandatory from 2024 in competitions that it governs.
The Elite League, which takes in teams from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is not under the governing body’s control.
An inquest into Johnson’s death opened and was adjourned on Friday, confirming that the player was identified by his fiancee, Ryan Wolfe.
Sheffield’s senior coroner Tanyka Rawden said that inquiries into the death were continuing, and adjourned the inquest until January 26, while stressing this would be for a review and not for the full hearing.
South Yorkshire Police has confirmed it is investigating the incident but officers have said the inquiry “will take some time”.
Officers have carried out inquiries at the arena, studied footage of the collision and spoken to experts, aided by Sheffield City Council’s health and safety team. The force said the investigation would be lengthy.
Meanwhile, a fundraiser has been launched in Johnson’s memory, raising over £53,000 to date that will be used to support local charitable activities in Johnson’s hometown of Hibbing, Minnestoa.
Johnson’s funeral will be held in Hibbing on Sunday.
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