The hockey world was shaken on Sunday by the news that former Pittsburgh Penguins forward Adam Johnson died at 29 after getting cut by a skate blade in what the team called a "freak accident."
The accident took place in Utilita Arena Sheffield during an EIHL game between the Nottingham Panthers and Sheffield Steelers on Saturday. More than 8,000 fans were asked to leave the arena during Johnson’s medical emergency.
The Nottingham Panthers confirmed the news Sunday, stating that “everyone at the club including players, staff, management, and ownership are heartbroken at the news of Adam's passing.”
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. pic.twitter.com/lhSOkDu03Q
— The Nottingham Panthers (@PanthersIHC) October 29, 2023
The EIHL postponed all of Sunday’s games after Johnson’s death. BBC reporter Sarah Hawley notes that fans and teammates gathered to mourn him on Sunday.
Very emotional scenes as Nottingham Panthers players laid flowers and spoke to hundreds of fans who arrived at the Motorpoint Arena to pay respects to player Adam Johnson who died last night #panthers pic.twitter.com/VnRfVEs6LX
— Sarah Hawley (formerly Teale) (@sarahhawleytv) October 29, 2023
Between 2018-19 and 2019-20, Johnson played in 13 games with the Penguins, scoring one goal and four points. The Penguins paid tribute to Johnson on Sunday, mourning a life that ended too soon but adding “it was our honor to watch him fulfill his dream of playing in the National Hockey League.”
Many reacted to the heartbreaking news by sharing footage of Johnson scoring his first and only goal in the NHL.
RIP Adam Johnson 💔 pic.twitter.com/b6Ba1VQzO6
— Jouni Nieminen 🇺🇦 (@OnsideWithJouni) October 29, 2023
Johnson’s former Penguins teammate Brett Sutter remembered him not just for being a “great teammate and person” but also for his dry sense of humor.
Thoughts and prayers to Adam Johnson’s family and everyone he touched. He was a great teammate and person. That smile and dry sense of humor will be missed. Rest peacefully my friend.
— Brett Sutter (@sutter_brett) October 29, 2023
Penguins beat reporter Seth Rorabaugh shared a bit of Johnson’s wit, as he hailed from the same area of Minnesota as the likes of Bob Dylan, Kevin McHale and Roger Maris.
Adam Johnson is from Hibbing, Minn., the same hometown as Bob Dylan, Roger Maris and Kevin McHale.
In 2019, he joked: “Maybe I can be as big as them.”
Gosh, he was such a gentle, pleasant human to talk to during his time here in Pittsburgh.
— Seth Rorabaugh (@SethRorabaugh) October 29, 2023
The NHL also released a statement in his memory.
“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.”
Tributes are pouring in from many corners of the hockey world, including the AHL, where he played extensively before pursuing his career overseas.
Hershey Bears to hold moment of silence before Wilkes-Barre/Scranton game after tragic passing of former Penguins forward Adam Johnson https://t.co/mxjmoddUYJ
— RMNB (@rmnb) October 29, 2023
Johnson is the second player in the last two years to die after being cut by a skate blade. Teddy Balkind, a 16-year-old high school hockey player in Connecticut, died in January 2022 after getting his neck cut during a game. No NHL player has died from a skate laceration, but there have been plenty of scares, most notably Buffalo Sabres goaltender Clint Malarchuk in 1989 and Florida Panthers forward Richard Zednik in 2008.