The aunt of ice hockey star Adam Johnson has called for ‘justice’ and a ‘complete investigation’ into his death.
The 29-year-old American was playing for Nottingham Panthers at rivals Sheffield Steelers on Saturday when he was reportedly hit by an opponent’s skate, causing a fatal injury as his throat was slit open.
About 8,000 fans watched in horror as attempts were made to save Johnson’s life as he lay bleeding on the ice at Sheffield’s Utilita Arena, shielded by fellow players, before he later died of his injuries in hospital.
Earlier on Thursday, Coroner’s officers confirmed that the inquest into Johnson’s death will be opened at the Medico-Legal Centre in Sheffield on Friday at 9am, while South Yorkshire Police issued a statement saying their investigation could take some time.
Johnson’s aunt, Kari, speaking from her home in Minnesota – where Johnson grew up – called for a detailed probe into the circumstances surrounding his death and questioned opposition player Matt Petgrave.
The aunt of ice hockey star Adam Johnson – who tragically died in a freak accident at the weekend – has called for ‘justice’ and a ‘complete investigation’ into his death
Adam Johnson, seen seconds before the freak incident at Sheffield’s Utilita Arena on Saturday
‘It was very reckless,’ she told YorkshireLive. ‘I just want them to get it right. We are looking for justice for Adam.
‘[The manoeuvre was] totally unnecessary. We are absolutely calling for a complete investigation. You don’t take your leg and kick somebody and cut their throat. I’m sorry.
‘We were watching the game in real-time and we did witness what happened. Horrific is the word to describe it.
‘My nephew was 6ft tall, and whether you lost your balance or not, to have that leg come up that high and do a kicking motion like he did, that is just unacceptable.
‘I think the actions were unnecessary. It was just unnecessary. Nobody touched him. I’ve watched that video hundreds of times. That’s not a hockey play, that’s not a check. I understand that every team has an enforcer, per se, on their team.’
She continued: ‘I’m sure Mr Petgrave probably didn’t even think about what the consequences could be of that happening, but there comes a time when you have to realise, that’s not hockey.
‘And I’m sure he’s going through a lot too, but he took our boy. There are a few of us in the family that think it was a totally unnecessary, very, very bad action to take.’
Kari went onto explain the impact the tragedy has had on their family and insisted they were determined for there to be as thorough investigation as possible.
She added: ‘I would have to say his mother has probably been the strongest of us. But I don’t know deep down inside if she’s in shock or crying when she’s alone. She’s just been very strong.
‘As far as his dad, my brother, he’s just been a mess. Along with Adam’s grandma and Adam’s brother and myself.
‘I just want them to get it right. It’s not going to bring my nephew back. We just want to make sure they get it right. If they find against what I feel, I will have to accept that.
‘But I’ve felt throughout it’s very, very reckless and unnecessary. It took a life. I don’t want to see it for someone else.
Several tributes have been paid to Johnson since his passing and Kari insisted this was testament to what a popular and brilliant person he was as she said: ‘He was just a wonderful young man. He loved everybody, he was kind to everybody. He was generous. He was an amazing kid.
‘He loved everything he did. He wanted to be the best at everything he took on but he didn’t want any of the fan fair. He was humble. He just wanted to be good at it – whatever it was – and move on to next thing.
A message board with a tribute to Johnson outside the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham
Several tributes have been paid to the player, while flowers and memorials were also laid
‘We knew what a great kid Adam was, but we’re finding out now since his passing how many lives he touched.’
Along with tributes, a sea of flowers have been laid at Sheffield’s Utilita Arena and Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena in memory of Johnson.
On Wednesday, the Panthers invited fans of all clubs to attend Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena to celebrate the former NHL player on November 4.
The Panthers have also announced the creation of an official fundraising page to raise money for the Love for Hibbing and Hockey Memorial Fund – established in Johnson’s memory.