An ice hockey match and a moment that changed everything.

American Ice Hockey star, Adam Johnson, was in the prime of his life.

Born on June 22, 1994, to Susan and Davey Johnson in Minnesota, USA, hockey has been a part of Johnson's life ever since he was a schoolboy at Hibbing High School. When he graduated, he played junior hockey in the United States Hockey League, and was named a USHL All-Star in 2015. 

By 2017, Johnson had joined the National Hockey League, signing an entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and making his debut in 2019. After playing 13 professional games, Johnson signed a contract abroad, playing for multiple teams before signing with the Elite Ice Hockey League's Nottingham Panthers in 2023. 

But there was more to Johnson than hockey. According to his fiancee, Ryan Wolfe, Johnson planned to have a "band" of kids, perhaps start a farm or coffee shop, or become a stay-at-home dad. 

At just 29 years of age, while Johnson was doing what he loved - playing ice hockey - those dreams were destroyed. 

In ice hockey, player collisions aren't unusual. But this one was different. This collision ended in Johnson's death after the blade of an opposing player's skate sliced his neck.

Adam Johnson was struck in the neck by a skate blade. Image: Getty


The moment that changed everything.

The man was an American player on the opposing team. 

In video footage, Johnson can be seen skating with the puck towards the Steelers net. The man skates towards him, colliding with another Panthers player. As he falls, his left skate kicks up, hitting Johnson in the neck, causing both players to drop and land on the ice. 

While the man on the opposing side immediately gets to his feet, Johnson rises slowly. His jersey is covered in blood. Johnson attempts to skate on before collapsing on the ice. The area was quickly evacuated and a medical team treated a critically injured Johnson. 

He later died at a local hospital. 

Johnson's death devastating the ice hockey community. Image: Getty


A community in mourning.

Johnson's death plunged the hockey community into mourning. But his death will be most felt by his family and friends, including his fiancee Ryan Wolfe. 

At a memorial honouring the young hockey player, Wolfe reportedly said she'd written a letter to her fiance with words similar to those she would have shared with him on their wedding day. 

“Hi babe, I want you to know how much I love you and adore you,” Wolfe read out. “You’ve been so amazingly supportive and kind to me since the day we met, and I couldn’t have been more grateful for it. I always thought that maybe if I was lucky enough, after a lifetime together I might start to be more like you. You are such a special person. You have the best sense of humour, the biggest heart, the quickest wit and the kindest soul. You’re unbelievably loyal, dedicated and smart. You’re so, so smart. Whether it came to school or life in general. You just seem to have it all figured out, which gave me so much peace and comfort and made me feel like we could do anything or be anything and we’d be OK. We’d be happy.”


Johnson's fiance, Ryan Wolfe, said the couple loved each other unconditionally. Image: Instagram/@ryanwolfe17


Wolfe said Johnson had begun planning for the couple's future.

“I’m so lucky to have loved you and been unconditionally loved by you,” she said. “You made me so insanely happy and it feels like an understatement to say we were boyfriend and girlfriend or fiancees. I’ve never really felt like there was a label that could describe us, how well we fit, how in sync and aware of one another we were, how we agreed about everything under the sun, even if sometimes you liked to disagree with me on little things like the quickest way home or the best brand of peanut butter.

“To me, you were everything. You were my home, my best friend, my sounding board, my rock, my safe haven and the love of my life. I’m never going to stop thinking about you, missing you and loving you until we can be together again. I love you.”

Who's to blame?

Johnson's death prompted an immediate police investigation.

"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," South Yorkshire Police said.

"Adam's death has sent shockwaves through many communities, from our local residents here in Sheffield to ice hockey fans across the world."

Police have confirmed a man was arrested on suspicion of manslaughter in relation to Johnson’s death, and was later released on bail. His name will not be made public until he is charged with a crime, per UK law.

The incident was described by most as unintentional. Image: Getty


A moment of silence was held for Johnson at the Steelers’ first home game since his death.

As a result of the tragedy, the English Ice Hockey Association, the sport's governing body in the country, has made neck guards mandatory from 2024. 

Feature image: Getty

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