The fiancée of the ice hockey star who died from a freak accident has paid tribute to her ‘sweet, sweet angel’ today, saying: ‘I’ll miss you forever and love you always.’
Nottingham Panthers player Adam Johnson’s throat was cut by an opponent’s skate blade when they collided during a match against the Sheffield Steelers on Saturday.
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.’
Minnesota-born Johnson and Miss Wolfe had become engaged over the summer and lived together in England, his former college teammate Riley Tufte told The Athletic.
Johnson is survived by his father Davey, mother Sue and an older brother, also called Ryan. A family friend added that his grandmother Marilyn was ‘his biggest fan’.
Ryan Wolfe and Nottingham Panthers player Adam Johnson, at a family wedding in June 2022
Adam Johnson and Ryan Wolfe, pictured in July 2022, had become engaged over the summer
Adam Johnson in action for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL in Columbus, Ohio, in 2017
The tragedy has now prompted calls for professional players to wear neck guards – which is mandatory only for players aged under 20 in this country.
The tribute posted by his Ryan Wolfe, fiancée of Nottingham Panthers star Adam Johnson
There have been two previous neck-slashing incidents in North America’s National Hockey League (NHL) – but in both incidents the players were saved by prompt treatment from medics.
The incident happened in the 35th minute of Saturday’s Elite Ice Hockey League match in front of 8,000 fans at Sheffield’s Utilita Arena. The game was later abandoned.
Footage showed Sheffield Steelers player Matt Petgrave colliding with one of Johnson’s teammates, knocking him off balance and causing his leg to lift up and make contact with Johnson’s neck.
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.
Peter Spencer, the BBC Radio Sheffield ice hockey reporter who was at the game, said the home team’s doctor and the Panthers physio ‘were straight out on the ice to attend to him’.
They were joined by paramedics and two trauma nurses from the crowd. Players formed a shield to hide what was happening from public view.
Adam Johnson, seen seconds before the freak incident at Sheffield’s Utilita Arena on Saturday
An ambulance outside Sheffield’s Utilita Arena on Saturday evening after the freak accident
A GoFundMe page was set up over the weekend to raise money for Johnson’s bereaved family
Screens were then brought down on the ice but the medical team was seen performing CPR before Johnson was taken to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital.
Mr Spencer added that hockey was ‘a fast and physical and at times brutal game’ but it was ‘certainly not an incident that I have ever seen the like of and hopefully I will not see the like of again’.
Caroline Crossland, a spectator at the match, commented on X: ‘Don’t even know how to feel or what to think after the horrific accident we saw tonight.’
In reference to the player whose skate caused the fatal injury, she added: ‘Watching him break with shock and trauma was horrific, I can’t imagine how he feels.’
One parent of a shocked fan said: ‘My 17-year-old has come home in bits, he said he can’t un-see what he’s seen tonight. He’s white as a sheet. My thoughts and prayers are with the teams involved.’
A Panthers spokesperson said yesterday: ‘The Nottingham Panthers are truly devastated to announce that Adam Johnson has tragically passed away following a freak accident at the game in Sheffield last night.
‘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.
‘Everyone at the club including players, staff, management and ownership are heartbroken at the news of Adam’s passing.
‘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.
Tributes were left to Adam Johnson at Sheffield’s Utilita Arena yesterday by fans of both teams
Tributes to Adam Johnson have also been left outside the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham
Fans lay flowers outside the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham yesterday after Johnson’s death
‘The Panthers would like to thank everyone who rushed to support Adam last night in the most testing of circumstances.
‘Adam, our number 47, was not only an outstanding ice hockey 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.
‘We ask that the privacy of Adam’s family and friends, and everyone at the club is respected at this difficult time as we all seek to come to terms with our grief.’
Yesterday’s three Elite League games in Belfast, Fife and Guildford were postponed following Johnson’s death, while Nottingham later confirmed via X that tomorrow’s home contest against the Glasgow Clan had also been postponed.
The statement read: ‘The club will provide updates on our website and social media regarding future fixtures and all ticket information for postponed games as soon as it is possible to do so.
‘We ask for everyone’s understanding and patience regarding this news and ask that fans refrain from emailing or contacting the club as our staff come to terms with today’s tragic news.’
Minnesota-born Johnson played for Pittsburgh Penguins in the National Hockey League before spending the 2020-21 season in Sweden with the Malmo Redhawks.
The Penguins said in a statement: ‘The Pittsburgh Penguins join the entire hockey world in mourning the loss of Adam Johnson, 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.
Players and staff observe a silence for Adam Johnson at Hillsborough in Sheffield yesterday
‘Adam will always be a part of the Penguins family. It was our honor to watch him fulfill his dream of playing in the National Hockey League.’
The NHL also passed on its condolences. A statement said: ‘The National Hockey League family mourns the passing of former Pittsburgh Penguin Adam Johnson. Our prayers and deepest condolences go to his family, friends and teammates.’
Johnson went on to play in the American Hockey League for the Ontario Reign and in Germany for the Augsburger Panther before agreeing to join Nottingham for the 2023-24 campaign.
A statement from the Elite Ice Hockey League read: ‘The Elite Ice Hockey League is heartbroken to confirm that Nottingham Panthers forward Adam Johnson sadly passed away following a freak accident in Saturday’s game between Sheffield Steelers and Nottingham Panthers,’ read a league statement.
A video tribute to Adam Johnson before an Edmonton Oilers match in Alberta yesterday
‘In light of this deeply upsetting news, the Elite League has postponed all games scheduled to take place on Sunday October 29, 2023.
‘The thoughts and condolences of everyone connected with the EIHL are with Adam’s family, friends and teammates at this incredibly sad and difficult time.’
Sheffield said in their own statement: ‘Everyone at the Steelers send their condolences to Adam Johnson’s partner, family and teammates.’
South Yorkshire Police said ‘our investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident remain ongoing’.