Chicago Blackhawks players reacted to the horrifying news over the weekend that 29-year-old American hockey player Adam Johnson died in a "freak accident" during a game in England.
Speaking from the locker room Sunday, several players spoke to the Chicago Tribune expressing their condolences in the tragedy.
“It’s awful,” Chicago Blackhawks forward Ryan Donato told the publication. “When you hear (the news), you get a pit in your stomach and you can only pray for their family and his friends.”
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"Obviously (it’s) so sad for of course him and his family and everything. It’s hard to think about that. You’re thinking about him and his family, that’s a tragedy," young star Connor Bedard said. “The hockey community is so tight and such a small world. ... I don’t know him, a few guys in here know him, but you want to do what you can to support anyway.”
Defenseman Connor Murphy called it "the worst nightmare of a possibility.”
"You don’t have the words, and it’s hard to think about it even knowing it’s a possibility, but you just chalk it up to being such a fluke thing," Murphy reportedly said.
Johnson, a Minnesota native who appeared in 13 NHL games with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2019 and 2020, died after his neck was cut by a skate blade during a game in England on Saturday, his team said. Johnson was playing for the Nottingham Panthers in a Challenge Cup game against the Sheffield Steelers when he suffered the skate cut during the second period of the Elite Ice Hockey League game at Sheffield’s Utilita Arena.
“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 Sunday.
“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."
The Penguins were among the teams to react to the shocking news over the weekend.
“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 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.”
Donato said the "tragic situation" is "hard to think about."
"And for good reason. And it’s just sad the way it happened," he said.
The NHL has had skate cut scares throughout its history, including a recent game involving the Blackhawks, when Bruins center Jakub Lauko took a skate to the eye.
Lauko fell on the ice when Dickinson lifted his skate and accidentally poked him near his eye. Lauko immediately rushed off the ice as blood started pouring into his hands. Luckily, however, he avoided a major injury.
Buffalo goaltender Clint Malarchuk also took a blade to the neck during a game against St. Louis on March 22, 1989. Malarchuk received rapid medical attention and played again 10 days later.
In wake of Johnson's death, ice hockey players in England will be required to wear neck guards from the start of 2024.