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Arrest made in death of Adam Johnson, Minnesota native whose throat was cut during UK hockey game

Hockey player arrested on suspicion of manslaughter in Adam Johnson's death
Hockey player arrested on suspicion of manslaughter in Adam Johnson's death 02:01

MINNEAPOLIS — An arrest has been made in connection with the death of a hockey player from Minnesota who was gravely injured during a hockey game in the U.K. last month.

UPDATE: Suspect arrested in death of Minnesota hockey player Adam Johnson released on bail

South Yorkshire Police said Tuesday a man is being held on suspicion of manslaughter in the death of Adam Johnson. Johnson was playing for the Nottingham Panthers on Oct. 28 when another player's skate cut his neck. He later died at a hospital.

"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 Police Detective 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."

Police did not name the arrested man.

Hockey England Player Dies
Adam Johnson Paul Vernon / AP

Police said officers have been supporting Johnson's family through the investigation.

"Adam's death has sent shockwaves through many communities, from our local residents here in Sheffield to ice hockey fans across the world," Horsfall said. "We know these communities will expect us to handle this investigation with the same professionalism, fairness and sensitivity as any other and request that members of the public refrain from comment and speculation which could hinder this process. Our thoughts remain with all affected by this devastating incident as enquiries continue."  

At the time of his injury, the Panthers called it a "freak accident."

The arrested man has not been charged.

With a manslaughter, it doesn't matter if the other player did it on purpose, according to Jack Rice, a criminal defense attorney not associated with the case.

"Even in England, the fact is you don't need intention," Rice said. "You don't need to do this on purpose, this could have been 'an accident'. All you need is a certain level of negligence."

Johnson's family had no comment on the arrest.

Rice says he was surprised by it, because it rarely happens to athletes playing their sport.

"Does this open up other people to being charged in other professional environments? And the answer is frankly, yes it does," he said. "You don't get a free pass to act any way that you choose because you think you have the right to do it because it's a professional sport."

Who injured Adam Johnson? Sheffield Steelers player Matt Petgrave

Sheffield Steelers player Matt Petgrave was the skater whose blade cut Johnson's neck. After the injury, Johnson's teammate Westin Michaud took to social media to defend Petgrave.

"We wholeheartedly stand with Matt Petgrave. The hate that Matt is receiving is terrible and completely uncalled for. I was at ice level on the bench closest to the accident, I saw both players moving fast," Michaud wrote on X. "It's clear to me his actions were unintentional and anyone suggesting otherwise is mistaken. Let's come together and not spread unwarranted hate to someone who needs are [sic] support."

According to the Steelers, Petgrave was applauded during the team's game Sunday night against the Coventry Blaze. It was the first home game for the Steelers since Johnson's death.

"A poignant moment in the second at 22 minutes as Matt Petgrave received the applause of over 8,000 fans in the 22nd minute to remind him of our love and support," the team wrote in a game recap posted online.

Johnson was also honored during Sunday's game with a moment of silence before "one minute of rapturous applause," the team said.   

Who is Adam Johnson?

Johnson, 29, was a native of Hibbing, Minnesota, and played college hockey for the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. He had a brief NHL career with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Memorials for Adam Johnson

Earlier this month, thousands showed up to the Hibbing Memorial Arena to honor and remember Johnson. He has also been honored by hockey teams across the globe, including the Minnesota Wild.

The Panthers plan to play a memorial game for Johnson on Saturday. The team will wear memorial jerseys and raise funds for the Love for Hibbing and Hockey Memorial Fund, which was set up in Johnson's name after his death.

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