A man arrested on suspicion of manslaughter following the death of ice hockey player Adam Johnson has been bailed pending further inquiries, South Yorkshire Police said.
Nottingham Panthers star Mr Johnson died when his throat was slashed on Saturday, October 28, in an incident labelled a ‘freak accident’ by his team.
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.
While the name of the person arrested was not released in compliance with UK law, South Yorkshire Police released a statement yesterday confirming that a man was in police custody after his arrest on Tuesday on suspicion of manslaughter.
South Yorkshire Police confirmed today he has been bailed to a date in the New Year as inquiries continue.
An arrest was made on Tuesday following the death of former NHL forward Adam Johnson
Mr Johnson’s girlfriend Ryan Wolfe, who moved to the UK with him this year and had to identify his body at the hospital, shared a photo on Instagram: ‘My sweet, sweet angel. I’ll miss you for ever and love you always’
One of Johnson’s family members was the first to speak out after the arrest was made
Detective chief superintendent Becs Horsfall said yesterday: ‘Our investigation launched immediately following this tragedy and we have been carrying out extensive inquiries ever since to piece together the events which led to the loss of Adam in these unprecedented circumstances.
‘We have been speaking to highly specialised experts in their field to assist in our inquiries and continue to work closely with the health and safety department at Sheffield City Council, which is supporting our ongoing investigation.
‘Adam’s death has sent shockwaves through many communities, from our local residents here in Sheffield to ice hockey fans across the world.
‘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 inquiries continue.’
An inquest into Mr Johnson’s death was opened and adjourned on November 3, but Sheffield’s senior coroner, Tanyka Rawden, has already called on the sport’s governing bodies to take action.
In a Prevention of Future Deaths Report to Ice Hockey UK and the English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA), Ms Rawden said she is ‘sufficiently concerned that deaths may occur in the future if neck guards or protectors are not worn’, with both organisations given 56 days to say what action has been taken – or why action has not been taken.
The EIHA said neck guards will become mandatory from 2024 but the Elite League, in which the Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers compete, is not under its control.
The Elite Ice Hockey League said it will not make the use of neck guards mandatory but will ‘strongly encourage’ players and officials to wear them.
Adam Johnson (pictured) died in a ‘freak accident’ after his throat was cut during a match on October 28
Mr Johnson’s aunt, Kari, was the first in his family to make public comments in the aftermath of the arrest yesterday.
‘We’re just going to have to let it play out and see what happens,’ she told The Mirror.
‘Whatever they’d decided, I would have had to live with it. But I’m just glad they are being diligent with doing what they’re supposed to be doing.’
Mr Johnson was recently laid to rest in his native state of Minnesota just last week.
At a memorial event on November 5, fans could be seen hugging and wiping away tears as they looked at the tributes and lined up on the ice to sign the condolence book, for which a carpet had been laid to allow people to walk into the bowl.
Panthers fan Michelle Hallam had attended the fateful match with her young son and 40 of his classmates, making sure he put his head down when it became clear Johnson had been grievously injured.
She told BBC News her son ‘wanted to see all the tributes’ despite what had happened, adding that he was ‘on edge’ just walking near the arena.
The Panthers said in a previous statement that the tragedy was ‘still very raw’ for players and staff.
The team said: ‘If you have been affected by the game last weekend and the loss of Adam – and you feel that you may need some additional help and support – local mental health charities will be in the Motorpoint Arena foyer for those that want to have a conversation.’
An obituary written for Johnson, posted on the website of Dougherty Funeral Home in his hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota, paid tribute to the player.
Fans formed an orderly queue in the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham to sign the book of condolence for Mr Johnson. Many hugged and could be seen wiping away tears
A tribute left to Mr Johnson outside the Motorpoint Arena. Handwritten notes on the shirt describe him as a ‘legend… gone way too soon’
Johnson’s aunt said: ‘We’re just going to have to let it play out and see what happens’
The incident happened at Utilita Arena Sheffield (pictured) and is believed to have been witnessed by around 8,000 fans
Mr Johnson and Ms Wolfe had been due to become engaged
Before the Pittsburgh Penguins’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, both teams joined together for a tribute to Mr Johnson, who appeared in 13 NHL games with the Penguins
Mr Johnson was also honoured ahead of the game between the Vancouver Canucks and the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night
It read: ‘Adam had a quiet confidence about him and was never boastful.
‘He was never looking to be the centre of attention, but rather he preferred to listen to others and do what he could to make them feel important.’
National ice hockey league games have been suspended since Johnson’s death, with matches set to resume today – with all teams save for Nottingham and Sheffield expected to compete.
Mr Johnson has been remembered across the world following the incident, with alumni the Pittsburgh Penguins taking a moment to remember him ahead of a game against the Anaheim Ducks on Monday.
Calls have been made for neck guards to be made mandatory in professional ice hockey but the Elite Ice Hockey League – the top professional league in the UK – says it will only ‘strongly encourage’ players and officials to wear them.