Ex-NHLer Adam Johnson dies in 'freak' in-game EIHL skate blade mishap

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Sharp skate blades and exposed or thinly padded skin have long been a risk in a heavy contact hockey.

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On Saturday, during a game in Britain’s Elite Ice Hockey League, there were fatal consequences for American forward Adam Johnson, a former NHLer with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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In what officials at the match called  a “freak accident,” the 29-year-old from the Nottingham Panthers died as the result of a skate blade slicing his neck.

During the Challenge Cup road game against the Sheffield Steelers, Johnson was involved in a second period collision. He received emergency treatment on the ice, with images  showing heavy loss of blood. Players on both teams went to their respective dressing rooms, while Johnson was taken to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital. Nearly 8,000 fans at Utilita Arena were asked to leave the building due to a “major medical emergency.”

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His death was confirmed in a post by the Panthers on Sunday morning. In a report by the hockey website Daily Faceoff, BBC on-scene reporter Peter Spencer was quoted via social media “Nottingham player badly hurt after a collision in mid-ice. Paramedics are now on the ice, players are forming a ring around him and now screens are up around him. Awful scenes here at Sheffield Arena.”

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Signed by the Penguins after two years playing at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, the native of Grand Rapids, Minn., played 13 NHL games for them between the farm assignments between 2018-20. After spending the past few years in the AHL and stops in Sweden and Germany, the centre was in his first EIHL season with seven points in seven games.

“Everyone at the club, including players, staff, management and ownership are heartbroken at the news of Adam’s passing,” his team’s statement read. “The Panthers would like to send our thoughts and condolences to Adam’s family, his partner, and all his friends at this extremely difficult time.

“Our thoughts are also with the fans and staff of both clubs, especially those who attended or were following the game, who will be devastated following today’s news. The Panthers would like to thank everyone who rushed to support Adam last night in the most testing of circumstances.

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“Adam, our number 47, was not only an outstanding player, but also a great teammate and an incredible person with his whole life ahead of him. The club will dearly miss him and will never ever forget him.”

The EIHL postponed all three of Sunday’s games out of respect.

The Penguins and the NHL added their own tributes Sunday, his former club saying they “join the entire hockey world in mourning the loss of Adam whose life tragically ended far too soon. We offer our deepest condolences to Adam’s family and friends, as well as all of Adam’s past and present teammates and coaches. Adam will always be a part of the Penguins family. It was our honour to watch him fulfill his dream of playing in the NHL.”

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