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NOTTINGHAM, England — A growing makeshift shrine for Adam Johnson can be found outside the arena where the Nottingham Panthers play hockey.
Fans have been leaving flowers, wreaths, jerseys, team scarves, and handwritten notes to pay tribute to the American who tragically died after an opposing player’s skate cut his neck during a game last month in Sheffield. Johnson, age 29, is deeply missed.
“We’re not just hockey fans — we’re a hockey family,” said Panthers fan Margaret Cartwright on Saturday.
Johnson’s tragic death has not only prompted the sport to reassess safety regulations but has also sparked a criminal investigation locally, leading to the arrest of a suspect on suspicion of manslaughter.
The Panthers have not played since the October 28 game, and will return to the ice on Saturday at Motorpoint Arena against the Manchester Storm for a memorial game “to celebrate the life of Adam and the remarkable person he was,” the team announced.
The game, which will be broadcast for free on YouTube, is not counted in the Elite Ice Hockey League standings. Instead, it’s intended to bring players and fans together as they attempt to move forward.
A tribute to Johnson is planned before the opening faceoff, and the 10,000 fans at the sold-out venue will be asked to rise in the 47th minute (Johnson wore jersey No. 47) for a minute of applause.
A postmortem examination confirmed Johnson’s cause of death was a neck injury. Police made an arrest on Tuesday, and the suspect was released on bail a day later. South Yorkshire Police did not provide the suspect’s identity or age.
Matt Petgrave, a defenseman for the Sheffield Steelers, was the other player involved in the incident. Petgrave’s agent declined to comment when reached by The Associated Press.
“Everybody’s dealing with it in their own way, some are being negative. The majority of us are trying to be positive,” said Cartwright. “It was just a really, really unfortunate accident. The poor guy that caused it has got to live with that for the rest of life. I think that should be punishment enough. Nobody would do that deliberately — nobody. It’s just how it happened, in a split second something went wrong and unfortunately, we lost poor Adam.”
The Minnesota native was in his first season at Nottingham — a central England city known as home to Robin Hood — after stints in Germany and a handful of games for the Penguins in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons. He was living in Nottingham with his American girlfriend.
The English Ice Hockey Association, which governs the sport below the Elite League, reacted to Johnson’s death by requiring all players in England to wear neck guards from the start of 2024.
The game in Sheffield was part of the league’s Challenge Cup — like soccer’s FA Cup tournament in Britain — but the Panthers have since withdrawn from that competition. They will resume their season against the Belfast Giants on Nov. 26.
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