(Image via grandrapidsmn.com)
Photography Manager: Rena Danho
On October 28th of this year, we lost a beloved member of the hockey family.
Johnson spent most of his life playing hockey and on the ice playing for junior hockey leagues and later in college with the University of Minnesota’s Duluth Bulldogs, a team in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, or the NCHC.
Johnson debuted with the Pittsburg Penguins in 2019 and ended up playing thirteen games for the Penguins in the NHL from 2019 to 2020. From then on, Johnson signed from 2020-2021 as a free agent for the Ontario Reign and later traded to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
In the end, however, Johnson went on to his European career, where he signed a deal with Augsburger Panthers, and then later, in 2023, joined the Nottingham Panthers, becoming part of the Elite Ice Hockey League or EIHL.
Sadly, though, this was the end of Johnson’s career. In the game against the Sheffield Steelers, Johnsons’ throat was accidentally kicked by a skate of opposing player, Matt Petgrave.
In response, Johnson tried skating off the ice back to his time but sadly collapsed onto the ice before making it. Players were reported to be around him, helping and ensuring medics could attend to him. Johnson was quickly brought to the hospital but sadly pronounced dead at the age of 29.
When asked about his thoughts, Mike Sullivan, the coach of the Penguins, said this to the public:
“I don’t know if I have the words to explain, the whole circumstance it’s just an incredible tragedy, he was a terrific kid. It was a privilege to be his coach.”
The Panthers team was also devastated by the news, lamenting,
“Adam, our number 47, was not only an outstanding ice hockey player but also a great teammate and an incredible person with his whole life ahead of him. The Club will dearly miss him and we will never ever forget him.”
Fans from across the world have shown their remorse for the loss of Johnson. Many fans were even leaving flowers outside Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham to pay tribute to Adam Johnson. Inside the arena, fans were also invited to sign a book of condolences.
After this freak accident happened to Adam Johnson, it got everyone wondering about the safety of hockey and if anything will change to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
As many know, hockey is known to be a violent sport with lots of tackling and fighting on the glass, but no one suspected anything like this to happen. However, Adam Johnson wasn’t the first person to experience this.
During his time with the Buffalo Sabres in a game against St. Louise Blues, Malarchuk’s neck was hit by a skate and injured his carotid artery and jugular vein. Malarchuk was thankfully attended to and survived the accident after losing 1.5 liters of blood.
Although injuries like this happening on the ice are slim, the debate about wearing neck guards during games has sparked. Sales have increased across the US in the past weeks, and multiple stories about youth hockey leagues not enforcing or requiring neck guards have been popping up.
Days after the loss of Adam Johnson, the English Ice Hockey Association announced that neck guards will become mandatory in 2024 and will not be exclusive to a certain level of ice hockey but mandatory for all.
The Western Hockey League has also said that they will make neck protection mandatory, which will go into effect as soon as November 3rd.
Players in the NHL have even been wearing neck guards, especially Erik Karlsson, Lars Eller, Ryan Graves, and Marcus Petterson, all team members of the Penguins.
In a turn of events, on Tuesday, November 14th, it was announced by the South Yorkshire Police Department that a suspect had been arrested for involuntary manslaughter in relation to Johnson’s death. While the suspect remains in custody, according to People, their identity has yet to be released to the public, per UK law, which protects suspects’ identities until conviction.
What happened to Adam Johnson is not something to be taken lightly, and protection in sports is vital because no one wants to lose their life doing something they love.
Nevertheless, this is a chance for hockey to change, and they invest in more critical gear to prevent something like this from happening again.
Adam Johnson will never be forgotten among family, friends, fans, and teammates.