VIDEO: Fans Wonder Whether Former NHL Player Killed by ‘Freak Accident’ or Intentional Assault with Skates

Bruce Bennett_Getty Images (1)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The South Yorkshire Police are continuing their investigation into the death of U.S. hockey player Adam Johnson, who suffered a slice to the neck from the skate of an opponent.

Johnson died from severe blood loss on Saturday after being struck in the neck by the skate blade of Matt Petgrave of the Sheffield Steelers in the UK’s Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL). The league deemed it a “freak accident” after Johnson died at a local hospital.

On Monday, South Yorkshire Police officials said, “Our officers remain at the scene carrying out enquiries, and our investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident remain ongoing.”

The Sheffield City Council told the public that its health and safety team is assisting the police.

Councillor Joe Otten added, “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,” he said.

According to the Daily Mail, Petgrave is “distraught” and has been “receiving vile messages online.”

Johnson, 29, an undrafted NHL player with the Pittsburgh Penguins from 2018 to 2020, only joined the Nottingham Panthers a few months ago.

His fiancée, Ryan Wolfe, is despondent, writing, “I’ll miss you forever and love you always,” the BBC noted.

In response to the accident, the EIHL warned players to wear neck guards on the ice, a safety feature already required by leagues in Finland and Sweden.

Joe Sargent_NHLI via Getty Images

Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Despite the investigation, though, one UK legal expert told Newsweek that it is unlikely that Petgrave could face manslaughter charges.

“From what I have read on the news, it seems very unlikely the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) would prosecute: for manslaughter, you need either gross negligence – a really large departure from normal standards of care such as to justify criminal liability; or an unlawful and dangerous act – the latter only likely if for example there had be a pretty flagrant breach of the sport’s rules,” said Nicola Lacey, professor of law, gender and social policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

“If it was really a ‘freak accident,’ neither of those tests would be met; and the CPS can only prosecute where there is a realistic chance of conviction,” Lacey added.

The police are also trying to tamp down the situation.

“We would encourage the public to avoid speculation regarding the incident while we continue our enquiries,” police officials said.

However, on social media, fans did not hold back from speculating.

On the other hand, others believed the tragic act could have been an accident.


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