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Online tributes book launched as reporter gives insight into ice hockey tragedy

A regional daily website has launched an online book of condolence following the tragic death of ice hockey star Adam Johnson.

The 29-year-old Nottingham Panthers player died on Saturday after what has been described as a ‘freak accident’ when an opponent’s skate cut his neck while playing in front of 8,000 spectators at rivals Sheffield Steelers.

His death sparked an out-pouring of grief on social media from devastated ice hockey fans, friends and colleagues, all wishing to pay tribute to the American-born forward who had joined the club in August for the 2023/24 campaign.

Yesterday’s Nottingham Post ran with a front page image of Johnson, with the headline ‘Horror on the Ice’ and a cross-reference to a story with his distraught aunt inside.

The front page of the Nottingham Post following the tragic death of ice hockey star Adam Johnson.

Now its companion website Nottinghamshire Live has set up a book of condolence which has been shared with all of Reach PLCs national and US titles, offering people the chance to leave their own messages of support and tribute in memory of the player.

In keeping with ice hockey tradition, fans on social media have been propping up their hockey sticks outside their doors, taking pictures and posting them with #47forever denoting the number shirt that he wore.

In a story launching the Nottinghamshire Live book of condolence, audience editor Sam Cooper wrote: “Tributes have poured in from around the world as players, staff and fans try and come to terms with the awful incident.

“We wanted to give people a chance to pay their own tribute to Johnson. On Sunday evening, fans left ice hockey sticks outside their homes as a tribute.

“We have put together an online book of condolences where you can leave a hockey stick on a map in tribute. All you need to do is select your country and enter the first part of your postcode, name and message.

“The tribute will then be added to the map. Our thoughts remain with all those affected by this awful incident.”

Sam, himself a former ice hockey player, was one of those to ‘leave his stick out’ in tribute to Johnson on Sunday evening and posted his image on X, formerly Twitter.

Having played the sport since he was just three-years-old, he also wrote a thought-provoking piece on the impact of the incident, and whether changes will now need to be made in terms of protective clothing for the players.

“As anyone who has ever stepped in an ice rink or arena will tell you, it can be a dangerous sport,” he wrote. “It is full contact and consists of 10 players on the ice skating around with sticks, chasing a three-inch, six-ounce rubber disc around.

“But precautions are taken to mitigate the impact of certain incidents in the game. Players are covered in protective equipment from head to toe.

“As a child, I would pretty much cover my entire body with such equipment. For some unknown reason, there is a change in the amount of equipment you are required to wear in senior ice hockey. And the tragic events at the Sheffield Arena on Saturday night, October 28, brought that to the fore.

“Once a player reaches the age of 18 and is playing in a senior ice hockey match in the UK, there is no requirement to wear a neck guard. The requirement to wear a full face cage or visor also ends.

“Just like all other players I got to know during my time in the game, I could not wait to ditch the cage for a half-visor and leave my neck guard in my kit bag.

“Sadly, there will never be a way of proving what impact a neck guard could have had on Saturday night. But the calls are already being made to make them compulsory in senior games.”

South Yorkshire Police has confirmed that an investigation into the death has been launched as a matter of ‘normal procedure’, urging people to avoid speculation regarding the cause of the incident.

A spokesperson added: “Our officers remain at the scene carrying out inquiries. Our investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident remain ongoing.”