A man was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter in the death of former NHL player Adam Johnson, the South Yorkshire (England) Police announced Tuesday.
The arrest comes more than two weeks since police began investigating the incident that led to Johnson’s death on Oct. 28. Johnson was playing for the Nottingham Panthers in the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) when his throat was cut by a skate blade during a collision in a Champions Cup game in Sheffield, England, against the Sheffield Steelers. Johnson was 29.
South Yorkshire Police said in a statement that a postmortem examination confirmed Johnson died from a fatal neck injury. The man, whose identity was not released by the police, remains in custody.
“Our investigation launched immediately following this tragedy and we have been carrying out extensive enquiries ever since to piece together the events which led to the loss of Adam in these unprecedented circumstances,” South Yorkshire Chief Superintendent Becs Horsfall said. We have been speaking to highly specialised experts in their field to assist in our enquiries and continue to work closely with the health and safety department at Sheffield City Council, which is supporting our ongoing investigation.
The player whose skate blade cut Johnson’s neck was Matt Petgrave, 31, who plays for Sheffield.
According to The Associated Press, video of the incident showed Johnson skating with the puck toward the Steelers’ net. Petgrave skated toward Johnson and collided with another Panthers player, Petgrave’s left skate kicked up as he began to fall and the blade hit Johnson in the neck.
Both players landed on the ice, and Petgrave immediately got to his feet. Johnson rose more slowly and was helped off the ice, with his jersey covered in blood. He later died at a local hospital.
Johnson’s death has since prompted a number of different leagues throughout the sport to examine their player safety measures when it comes to potentially using neck protection devices.
It started when the English Ice Hockey Association announced two days after Johnson’s death that it would make neck guards mandatory starting in 2024 as part of a three-step plan.
NHL general managers convened in Toronto on Tuesday, and cut-resistant equipment — along with overall protection — was a hot topic of discussion.
While any mandates at the NHL level would need to be agreed upon by the NHL Players’ Association, there have been NHL players who started wearing neck guards at practices and in games.
Johnson’s former NHL team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, said it would mandate that its AHL and ECHL affiliates wear neck protection devices. A few days later, the Western Hockey League announced that it would be making neck protection devices mandatory for its players.
NHL vice president of hockey operations Rod Pasma addressed the league’s managers Tuesday on what options are available to players looking to upgrade their gear in the wake of Johnson’s death.
The actual process of acquiring a variety of protective items has been going on for more than a decade, and Pasma said the NHL is now fully able to deliver just about any gear a player requires.
“As it sits here today, there’s plenty of options for the players to wear at any category, whether it be the neck, the wrist, socks, patches,” Pasma said. “So, I think that [unknown] element of cut protection has disappeared, meaning if you think something’s too hot [to wear], if you think it’s too heavy, there’s options for you to look at that’ll fix those issues.”
Pasma said there are already upward of 10 selections in wrist gear and base layers for players to choose from. After Johnson’s death, the NHL also ramped up its collection of neck guard apparel, with plans to continue adding more to it.
“We’re getting there,” Pasma said. “We [didn’t] have many a month ago. But as it sits today, I think there’s up to eight companies on my desk waiting to be cleared [for use in the league]. And of those eight, there’s probably 12 to 14 options to wear.”
It’s not mandatory for a player to wait on NHL clearance to change gear. Pasma said anyone should “absolutely” wear a neck protection of their choosing and the league will then get that product certified.
At this stage, the NHL has no plans to impose a mandate forcing players to wear anything specific. If the players’ association were to request one be invoked down the road, then the league would work with it on such a course of action, Pasma said.
“They’re doing their thing behind the scenes and trying to figure out where they stand on it,” Pasma said. “Hopefully we’ll come together and see what we can come up with.”
ESPN’s Kristen Shilton and The Associated Press contributed to this report.