Former Minnesota-Duluth hockey player dies during game in England

Former University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) men's player and Hibbing native, Adam Johnson, has died after what the team is calling a "freak accident" Saturday while playing in England. 

According to the Associated Press (AP), the 29-year-old took a skate blade to the neck while playing for the Elite Ice Hockey League's Nottingham Panthers in a Challenge Cup game against the Sheffield Steelers. 

"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," the team said in a statement Sunday morning. 

"The Panthers would like to send our thoughts and condolences to Adam’s family, his partner, and all his friends at this extremely difficult time. Everyone at the club including players, staff, management and ownership are heartbroken at the news of Adam’s passing."

According to the Nottingham Panthers, the incident happened partway through the second period in the game. The teams returned to their locker rooms and, eventually, fans were asked to leave. 

Johnson played college hockey for the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, helping them reach two NCAA tournaments. According to AP, he scored an overtime game-winner in the 2017 tournament, sending the Bulldogs to the Frozen Four.

"We are deeply devastated to learn last evening of the passing of Adam Johnson. Adam was loved and admired by his teammates, coaches and staff. As talented as he was on the ice, he was even a better person," said UMD Men's Hockey in a statement. 

"Adam remained connected to the program, and for our time with him, we are eternally grateful. Adam, we love you, we will miss you."

Johnson played 13 games over parts of the 2018-19 and 2019–20 seasons playing for the National Hockey League's Pittsburgh Penguins. He had a goal and three assists for the Penguins. 

"The Pittsburgh Penguins join the entire hockey world in mourning the life of Adam Johnson, whose life tragically ended far too soon," the Penguins said Sunday morning in a statement. "We offer our deepest condolences to Adam’s family and friends, as well as all of Adam’s past and present teammates and coaches. Adam will always be part of the Penguins family."

Johnson played for the Hibbing/Chisholm Bluejackets before playing juniors in the United States Hockey League for two seasons. 

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Adam Johnson, his family, friends, and the Nottingham Panthers organization tonight," the Hibbing-Chisholm Youth Hockey Association posted on Facebook. "Ice hockey is a family, and we are praying for one of our own tonight."

The Minnesota Wild honored Johnson on social media, saying, "We are deeply saddened to learn that former Hibbing star and UMD Bulldog Adam Johnson passed away after suffering a tragic injury on Saturday night with the Nottingham Panthers. The State of Hockey is grieving for Adam, his family, and his hockey community."

Following the tragic event, the Nottingham Panthers have postponed several upcoming games. 

"The Panthers would like to thank everyone who rushed to support Adam last night in the most testing of circumstances. Adam, our number 47, was not only an outstanding ice hockey player, but also a great teammate and an incredible person with his whole life ahead of him. The club will dearly miss him and will never ever forget him," the team added.