British authorities announced Tuesday they’d taken a suspect into custody on suspicion of manslaughter tied to the on-ice death of American hockey player Adam Johnson, who had his throat slashed in a nasty collision with an opposition player.
Cops said the suspect in custody is a man, but did not reveal any other details about him. The player behind the brutal hit was Matt Petgrave—a star player for the Sheffield Steelers who was given a standing ovation on Monday night in his first game back since the Oct. 28 fatal collision.
About 8,000 fans watched in horror that night as Johnson, a 28-year-old Minnesota native who once played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, held his bleeding neck as he tried to skate off the ice after the collision. He collapsed seconds later, and was pronounced dead at a hospital later that night.
In a statement, South Yorkshire Police said it had conferred with “highly specialized experts in their field” ahead of making the arrest. The department added that Johnson’s death sent “shockwaves” through the hockey world.
Johnson’s team, the Nottingham Panthers, initially characterized his death as a “freak accident,” but some hockey players and Johnson’s family have since said they’re not convinced it was just that.
Sean Avery, an NHL start who played 13 seasons in the league, told Fox News that Petgrave’s move prior to hitting Johnson, which appeared to send his leg airborne, was “very unorthodox.” He said Petgrave’s leg “shouldn’t have been where it was.”
“It’s terrible,” he said. “I can’t even watch the video back.”
Johnson’s 62-year-old aunt, Kari Johnson, called Petgrave’s hit “very reckless” and said it was “not hockey,” The Sun reported. She added that she was watching her nephew’s game live with his parents in Minnesota when the fatal collision occurred.
“We are absolutely calling for a complete investigation,” she said. “You don’t take your leg and kick somebody and cut their throat… That’s not a hockey play, that’s not a check.”
However, scores of others have backed Petgrave, who led the Elite Ice Hockey League in penalty minutes last season, including his teammates.
1/2 I need to address something about the accident. 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.— Westin Michaud (@WestinMichaud) October 30, 2023
Westin Michaud, a fellow Sheffield player, tweeted that he and his teammates “wholeheartedly stand” with Petgrave, explaining that his teammate’s leg went airborne because he was clipped by an opposing player and lost his balance.
“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,” he explained. “The unintentional clip of the Panther player’s leg by the Sheffield player caused the somersault. It’s clear to me his actions were unintentional.”