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Ex-NHL player Sean Avery says he believes Matt Petgrave was ‘absolutely’ trying to make contact with Adam Johnson – but did not wake up and think ‘I’m gonna murder somebody today’


A former NHL player has said that he believes Matt Petgrave was ‘absolutely’ trying to make contact with Nottingham Panthers player Adam Johnson – but that he didn’t wake up with the intention of ‘murdering somebody today.’ 

Sheffield Steelers player Petgrave, 31, fatally cut Johnson’s throat with his blade in what’s been described as a ‘freak accident’ when they collided during a match in front of 8,000 horrified fans in Sheffield, England. 

Former Canadian hockey star Sean Avery has suggested the kick from Petgrave that killed Johnson was intentional – but he refused to call it a homicide when pressed by Fox host Jesse Watters. 

After Watters said Petgrave was a ‘dirty’ player and said it looked like ‘murder’, Avery said: ‘That’s a pretty dangerous word to be throwing around. I’ve watched it, it’s terrible, it’s tough to watch. 

Sean Avery has suggested the kick from Petgrave that killed Johnson was intentional - but he refused to call it a homicide when pressed by Fox host Jesse Watters

Sean Avery has suggested the kick from Petgrave that killed Johnson was intentional – but he refused to call it a homicide when pressed by Fox host Jesse Watters

Sheffield Steelers player Petgrave, 31, fatally cut Johnson's throat with his blade in what's been described as a 'freak accident' when they collided during a match in front of 8,000 horrified fans in Sheffield, England

Sheffield Steelers player Petgrave, 31, fatally cut Johnson’s throat with his blade in what’s been described as a ‘freak accident’ when they collided during a match in front of 8,000 horrified fans in Sheffield, England

Nottingham Panthers player Adam Johnson and his fiancee Ryan Wolfe at a family wedding in June 2022

Nottingham Panthers player Adam Johnson and his fiancee Ryan Wolfe at a family wedding in June 2022 

‘Did this kid make a move that was very unorthodox? Do I think he was trying to make contact of some sort? Absolutely.’ 

Avery added: ‘Do I think he woke up and said I’m going to murder somebody today? No.’

He went on to speak about how the sport should reconsider the titanium thin blades that are currently on the bottom of players’ skates. 

He added: ‘I saw the hit…I saw the leg move. It shouldn’t have been where it was. It’s terrible. I can’t even watch the video back.’ 

The ordeal is still being investigated by South Yorkshire Police in England.  

Chris Therien, a Canadian former professional ice hockey defenceman, also wrote on X ‘After seeing the incident involving Adam Johnson, that Bush league needs to shut down for investigation immediately. 

‘I was literally appalled and sickened by what I saw. It looked intentional. It was a Kung fu kick. My eyes are not lying tell me I’m wrong.’

Petgrave has played in eight different leagues during his career, and has been described by Fox presenters and people online as a ‘dirty player.’ 

He is currently the Elite Ice Hockey League’s most penalized player in the 2022-23 league, according to EuroHockey.

Petgrave has accrued a total of 129 PIM, penalty infraction minutes.

And between 2013 to 2017, he was listed as having 328 career penalty minutes, according to VredsHockey.

Matt Petgrave joined Sheffield Steelers last year from Czech side HC Dunamo Pardubice

Matt Petgrave joined Sheffield Steelers last year from Czech side HC Dunamo Pardubice

While playing in the Canadian Hockey League in 2010, Petgrave was suspended for five games ‘for an infraction in the third period of last Saturday’s 9-4 win over Sarnia.’

And in 2018, he was suspended indefinitely for his behavoir is the ECHL in New Jersey.

The league announced: ‘Brampton’s Matt Petgrave has been suspended indefinitely and fined an undisclosed amount as a result of his actions in ECHL Game #963, Brampton at Kalamazoo, on April 7.’

American Hockey League also suspended Petgrave in 2018, according to their press release at the time: ‘Laval Rocket defenseman Matt Petgrave has been suspended for one (1) game as a consequence of a slew-footing incident in a game at Toronto on Mar. 28. 

‘Petgrave was suspended under the provisions of AHL Rule 21.1 after being assessed a match penalty. He will miss Laval’s game tonight (Mar. 30) at Binghamton.’

Toronto-born Petgrave joined the Steelers in summer last year from Czech Republic side HC Dunamo Pardubice, and had also recently played for Slovakian team HIK Spisska Nova Ves.

The 6ft 1in player studied at the University of New Brunswick where he spent four seasons playing ice hockey, before turning professional in 2017.

He joined East Coast Hockey League side Brampton Beast, based in Ontario, that year and also had spells with Syracuse Crunch, Laval Rocket, Utica Comets, Florida Everblades and Kansas City Mavericks.

Steelers head coach Aaron Fox previously described Petgrave as an ‘impact player’ who can be a ‘game changer’ and play in ‘all positions’.

Last season he was voted onto the Elite Ice Hockey League’s all-star team.

At the Penguins game in Pittsburgh tonight, instead of silence, they asked the crowd to give a final cheer for Adam Johnson – which was described as ‘quite a moment.’ 

Johnson’s throat was cut by Petgrave’s skate blade when they collided during the match.

The incident on Saturday happened in the 35th minute of the Elite Ice Hockey League match at Sheffield’s Utilita Arena. The game was later abandoned.

Footage showed how  Petgrave crashed into one of Johnson’s teammates on Saturday in a collision which saw him lose balance before his leg lifted up and made contact with Johnson’s neck. 

Adam Johnson in action for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL in Columbus, Ohio, in 2017

Adam Johnson in action for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL in Columbus, Ohio, in 2017 

Sheffield Steelers player Matt Petgrave (file image) collided with one of Johnson's teammates, knocking him off balance and causing his leg to lift up and make contact with Johnson's neck

Matt Petgrave (file image) crashed into one of Johnson’s teammates in a collision which saw him lose balance before his leg lifted up and made contact with Johnson’s neck

Adam Johnson and Ryan Wolfe, pictured in July 2022, had become engaged over the summer

Adam Johnson and Ryan Wolfe, pictured in July 2022, had become engaged over the summer

Video of the incident showed Johnson getting to his feet, with blood pouring on to the ice. He was helped by a referee and a teammate as he headed off the rink, but collapsed on to the ice.

Johnson’s girlfriend paid tribute to her ‘sweet, sweet angel’, saying ‘I’ll miss you forever and love you always.’

The 29-year-old briefly stood up, bleeding profusely on to the ice, before collapsing again during the game in Sheffield. He received immediate medical attention, with CPR performed on the ice, and was taken to hospital but could not be saved.

Now, his girlfriend Ryan Wolfe has paid tribute on Instagram, posting a picture of him and saying: ‘My sweet, sweet angel. I’ll miss you forever and love you always.’

Supporters have rallied around ‘distraught’ Matt Petgrave who accidentally killed Johnson with his boot blade.

After the incident, players formed a shield to hide what was happening from public view.

This type of accident has happened before in hockey. In January 2022 Teddy Balkind, who was in 10th grade at St Luke’s, a private school in Connecticut, died after having his throat cut by another player’s blade.

The same thing also happened to Clint Malarchuk in 1989, in an NHL game between his Buffalo Bares team and the St Louis Blues.

Malarchuk survived but needed 300 stitches to close a six-inch wound. He lost 1.5 liters of blood.



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