Adam Johnson Died in a Tragic Hockey Incident
On Saturday, October 28, in Sheffield, England, the death of American ice hockey player, Adam Johnson, shocked sports fans worldwide. Johnson died as the result of an in-game collision while playing for the Nottingham Panthers.
The Panthers had a matchup against the Sheffield Steelers at the Utilita Arena in Sheffield, and things were going as expected. Unfortunately, the game only made it to the second period before tragedy struck.
Johnson was making his way toward the Steelers net, as defender Matt Petgrave approached aggressively and turned directly into Johnson’s path. In doing so, Petgrave also came into close contact with Panthers Right Winger Otto Nieminen. Petgrave couldn’t fully avoid a collision with Nieminen, tripping over his boot, and throwing him off balance during his speed run toward the direction of Johnson.
Now, Johnson was directly in line with Petgrave, and the two players collided, leading Petgrave’s sharp skate to cut directly into Johnson’s throat. The two players then fell onto the ice as a pool of blood surfaced, resulting in trainers and paramedics rushing the rink.
According to the Daily News, Johnson had attempted to stand up, but quickly fell into the arms of one of the game officials. He was then taken off the ice, and soon pronounced dead at the scene.
After this fatal incident occurred, videos surfaced across various social media platforms, such as X, YouTube and TikTok, showcasing the direct moment of contact between Johnson and Petgrave. Since, fans have been speculating whether or not this was an accident after all.
The videos show the strike in real time, along with the slowed down version, highlighting a variety of close-up shots at the moment of impact.
There is no evidence that suggests Petgrave and Johnson had any previous tension prior to the game.
Within the debate of whether this was deliberate or not, the topic of manslaughter has been raised, and if Petgrave should be placed on trial for murder.
Amy Rothschild is a professor of legal studies at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. In an email thread with DCReport, she shared her thoughts on whether this was an act with malicious intent, or just an unfortunate tragedy.
“From a lawyer’s standpoint, this was a terrible, freakish accident,” Rothschild said. “Not all accidents result in lawsuits, let alone criminal prosecution.”
Rothschild also emphasized how there is a common belief shared among athletes who play contact sports to “assume the risk” that potentially fatal accidents could occur at any given moment during competitive, elite competition.
“Unless someone acts in an egregious, very intentional matter, he or she should not be liable either civilly or criminally,” she said. “Petgrave was a typically aggressive hockey player who neither intended nor expected that Johnson would be injured.”
Because this game was England-based, that is the jurisdiction where authorities will investigate — even though Johnson hails from Minnesota. There are different laws regarding instances of such in England and America, and Rothschild explained how in most American jurisdictions, law enforcement would most likely find that there shouldn’t be a manslaughter charge at hand.
“Johnson’s estate could bring a civil damages complaint, which a tough court could dismiss, relying on the ‘assumption of risk’ doctrine — some judges might flip a coin and not dismiss, leading to a settlement,” Rothschild said.
While understandable regarding the different perspectives floating around social media surrounding the death of Johnson and intent of Petgrave, according to Rothschild, it seems unlikely that Petgrave will be charged.