Adam Johnson: Police probe ice hockey death as fiancée pays tribute

The fiancée of an ice hockey player who was fatally injured during a match has paid tribute to her "sweet angel" as police continue to investigate his death.

Nottingham Panthers' Adam Johnson's neck was cut by a skate during a game against the Sheffield Steelers on Saturday.

Johnson was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

His fiancée, Ryan Wolfe, said: "I'll miss you forever and love you always."

South Yorkshire Police, which was called to the Utilita Arena in Sheffield, said it was "normal procedure" to open an investigation when an incident was reported.

A force spokesperson added: "Our officers remain at the scene carrying out inquiries.

"Our investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident remain ongoing.

"We would encourage the public to avoid speculation regarding the incident while we continue our inquiries."

Sheffield City Council confirmed its health and safety team is assisting with the investigation.

Councillor Joe Otten said: "Firstly, our thoughts are with Adam's family, friends and teammates at this very sad and difficult time.

"Our health and safety team is helping South Yorkshire Police with their investigation and will assist wherever necessary."

Neck guards mandatory

Following Johnson's death, the English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA) - which oversees all levels of ice hockey in the England below the Elite League - has issued safety advice to all members regarding the use of neck guards.

BBC Sport understands Johnson was not wearing a neck guard.

The EIHA said it was "unacceptable" for any player to lose their life while playing ice hockey.

With immediate effect, it has issued a "strong recommendation" that all players at all levels across English ice hockey use an approved neck guard.

The advice is in place until the start of 2024, when it will become a mandatory requirement.

The EIHA also said it would undertake a player safety equipment review, considering all aspects of player safety equipment including - but not limited to - the use of helmets, gumshields and facial protection.

Compulsory guards are already in place in the likes of Finland and Sweden, while Germany's top flight, the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, is also reportedly considering their introduction for the new season.

National Ice Hockey League (NIHL) team Oxford City Stars - which have former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech on their roster - have already announced their players must wear neck guards at all times on the ice.

Adam Johnson tribute at Hillsborough
Sheffield Wednesday's players and staff paid tribute to Adam Johnson ahead of their match at Hillsborough on Sunday

On Monday evening, the Elite Ice Hockey League said all fixtures scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday would be postponed.

The league said matches would return at the weekend for all teams, except the Panthers and Steelers.

In a statement, the league said: "Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers will not return to the ice this weekend and we would continue to ask everyone to support these clubs through what is an intensely difficult time."

Tributes have been paid across the world to Johnson including from Nottingham, his home in Minnesota in the US, and a number of his former clubs including the Pittsburgh Penguins in North America's National Hockey League (NHL).

Kevin Moore, assistant coach with the Panthers, has spoken to fans outside Nottingham's Motorpoint Arena where they play their home games.

He said: "As time goes on, we're all going to heal but we're going to do it together.

"Our group is strong, and they're connected and we're going to do you guys proud."

On Sunday, Johnson's teammates and fans left flowers outside the arena.

Sheffield Steelers arena
Paramedics treated Johnson on the ice but were unable to save him


By Peter Spencer, the BBC's Sheffield Steelers reporter

I tend to move around the arena depending on which period it is, so in the second period when this freak accident occurred, I was standing at ice level right behind the Nottingham Panthers goal.

I was looking through the plexiglass and saw a collision. The Steelers' doctor and the physio from the Panthers were straight out on to the ice to attend to him, then paramedics arrived. There were also some fans who were trauma nurses and medical professionals locally in Sheffield, who were allowed on to the ice by the stewards to help.

Johnson subsequently received CPR on the ice and it was at that point that Steelers' captain Robert Dowd got both sets of players to form a ring around him.

I've been covering ice hockey in Sheffield for 11 years and to see how the players were visibly affected, the staff and the management of both teams, it was awful to see and certainly not an incident that I ever have seen the like of, and I hope I never see the like of again.

Meanwhile, in the US, Pittsburgh Penguins said in a statement they joined "the entire hockey world in mourning the loss of Adam Johnson, whose life tragically ended far too soon".

Johnson's former teams - University of Minnesota's Duluth Bulldogs, Ontario Reign, Minnesota Wild and Malmö Redhawks - also paid tribute.

Redhawks chief executive Patrik Sylvegård said: "It was very tragic to hear about Adam's passing and our thoughts of course go out to Adam's family and close relatives at this difficult time."

Sheffield Hallam University said the death "shocked the community".

In a post on Facebook, it added: "We know there were students and staff at the game, and we're directly supporting everyone who makes contact, as well as making sure anyone who has been affected by the incident knows where they can get help."

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