Sheffield Steelers Ice hockey star Matt Petgrave has been given a standing ovation by fans at the Utilita Arena Sheffield after he was involved in a deadly collision with Nottingham Panthers player Adam Johnson on October 28.
It came as the Steelers returned to the ice for their first home game since Johnson tragically passed away, after Petgrave’s skate had fatally cut his opponent’s neck during their Challenge Cup tie.
Johnson had stood up following the collision, but blood began to profusely fall onto the ice before the 29-year-old collapsed again.
In tribute to the Panthers player, more than 8,000 fans observed a moment of silence and a rapturous minute’s applause as players tapped their sticks on the ice ahead of the Steelers’ 2-1 win against Coventry Blaze on Sunday.
Petgrave was not included in the Steelers’ squad to play on the night, but before the match, his picture appeared on the big screen inside the arena, with many fans rising to their feet to applaud the image of the defender.
Adam Johnson’s (left) neck was cut open in a collision with Matt Petgrave (right)
Sheffield Steelers returned to action at home on Sunday for the first time since the incident with fans giving Petgrave a standing ovation after an image of him appeared on the big screen
South Yorkshire Police have launched an investigation into the ‘tragic and unprecedented’ death of Johnson stating that due to the ‘complex nature’ of the incident, a ‘wider investigation will take some time.’ Police had also referred to the incident as a ‘freak accident’.
The Steelers defender, meanwhile, has not publicly been seen since the incident, but according to reports had been left ‘absolutely distraught’ and had also received ‘vile messages’ from trolls on social media.
Petgrave, 31, began his career with the Bramalea Blues in the Ontario Junior Hockey League in Canada.
The 6ft 1in defenseman would later join Niagara IceDogs in the Ontario Hockey League. He has subsequently gone on to play for several other clubs, across eight different leagues and five countries – notably turning professional in 2017.
He would go on to join the Steelers in 2022, after a stint playing for Czech side Dunamo Pardubice.
But some have raised questions over the incident, with a video having emerged online claiming to show Petgrave performing a similar move to the one that resulted in Johnson’s death during in an ice hockey match over 12 years ago.
The ice hockey community has rallied around Petgrave (pictured) after his involvement in the tragic incident
A moment of silence and a round of applause was also held in tribute to Johnson
Johnson was struck in the neck by an ice hockey blade. Pictured: Moments before the tragedy
Yorkshire Ambulance Service said they were called at around 8.21pm before sending two ambulances and a critical care paramedic – with one man taken to hospital
Fans of the Nottingham Panthers started a memorial for Johnson following his tragic death
One of Johnson’s team-mates, Westin Michaud, rallied around Petgrave, with Westin Michaud, saying that the team ‘wholeheartedly stand with the Sheffield player’.
He said: ‘It’s clear his actions were unintentional and anyone suggesting otherwise is mistaken.’
Victor Bjorkung, another Panthers player, told Swedish newspaper Expressen: ‘No one in our team thinks it’s his fault, quite the opposite. We are a big family and he can contact us if he needs it. I was a couple of metres away, so if anyone experienced it as it really was, then it was me.’
Johnson’s aunt has also called for a ‘full investigation’ into what she described as a ‘reckless’ incident.
‘It was very reckless,’ she told YorkshireLive. ‘I just want them to get it right. We are looking for justice for Adam.
A memorial to Johnson now stands outside the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham
The Ontario Reigns paid a touching tribute to their former player after their win over the Abbotsford Canucks
‘[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.’
She added: ‘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.’
Tributes have been paid to Johnson following his tragic passing, with the American Hockey League team Ontario Rein honouring the 29-year-old as the first star of the night following a win against Abbotsford Canucks.
Nottingham Panthers also held public tributes towards their former player, while Nottingham Forest fans also paid tribute to Johnson during their Premier League clash against Aston Villa, holding up a banner imprinted with his shirt number, 47.