July 22, 2024

British authorities in London, England, have arrested Matt Petgrave on suspicion of manslaughter for his role in the death of former NHL player Adam Johnson this past October. Petgrave, who plays for the Sheffield Steelers, was playing against Johnson and his team, the Nottingham Panthers, when Petgrave kicked Johnson in the neck, with his skate. Petgrave’s skate sliced open Johnson’s neck, and he bled out and died after being taken off the ice. 

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Video of the incident shows Johnson skating with the puck toward the Steelers net. Petgrave skates toward Johnson and collides with another Panthers player. Petgrave’s left skate kicks up as he begins to fall and the blade hits Johnson in the neck. Both players land on the ice. Petgrave immediately got to his feet. Johnson rose more slowly and as he is helped off the ice, his jersey is covered in blood. He later died at a local hospital.

You can see the incident here; be advised that the incident is extremely graphic.

The police in London say they began to look into the incident immediately after, conducting a very thorough and expansive investigation. Following the incident, Petgrave returned to the ice this past Sunday and received a standing ovation from the crowd as he took the ice, which angered countless fans and supporters of Johnson due to his seemingly successful evasion of responsibility for the incident.  

Petgrave has a spotty record as a hockey player in the EIHL. According to Eurohockey.com, Petgrave is listed as one of the top leaders for most penalized players for this season, with 129 penalty minutes so far. Several former NHL and EIHL players have said that Petgrave’s kick, to them, looked entirely intentional and he meant to cause Johnson harm and or injury. 

According to sources by the AP, this would not be the first time a player has been charged with a crime due to on-ice conduct, though it is extremely rare for that to occur. 

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Two NHL players in recent history have been charged with a crime in Canada for an on-ice action: Marty McSorley and Todd Bertuzzi.

In 2000, McSorley was found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon for a two-handed slash to the head of Donald Brashear with his stick. He was sentenced to 18 months probation.

In 2004, Bertuzzi pleaded guilty to assault for grabbing Steve Moore from behind and sucker punching him. Bertuzzi agreed to a plea deal and was sentenced to one year probation and 80 hours of community service.

Following the incident, leagues across the world, including leagues in Canada, Europe, and USA Youth Hockey, have all adopted or will adopt equipment changes to include neck protection for players in order to prevent/protect the players from suffering the same injuries that Johnson sustained. Johnson was a former NHL player who played 13 games with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 seasons. 

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