Portfolio of Hope


A couple of weeks ago, on Saturday the 28th October, a horrific accident saw 29-year-old ice hockey player, Adam Johnson of Nottingham Panthers, tragically lose his life during a match at Sheffield’s Utilita Arena. The incident occurred 35 minutes into the game when Matt Petgrave of Sheffield Steelers collided with Johnson, causing his skate to flip up and slash Johnson’s throat.

The 29-year-old briefly stood up, bleeding profusely on to the ice, before collapsing again during the game in Sheffield. CPR was performed on the ice while players formed a ring to shield Johnson being given treatment. He was then taken to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital by ambulance.

Despite receiving immediate assistance, as Peter Spencer, the BBC Radio Sheffield ice hockey reporter who was at the game said, ‘the home team’s doctor and the Panthers physio were straight out on the ice to attend to him’, he tragically died as a result of his injury.

The tragedy or, as it was dubbed, the ‘freak accident’, was witnessed by 8,000 fans.

Matt Petgrave

14/11: From ‘freak accident’ to manslaughter in less than 3 weeks…

Yesterday (14/11), Matt Petgrave of Sheffield Steelers was arrested by South Yorkshire Police on suspicion of manslaughter, an offence which carries with it a hefty jail sentence if found guilty.

An individual found guilty of manslaughter by gross negligence (involuntary manslaughter) faces a custodial sentence of up to 12 years. On the other hand, those found guilty of manslaughter by an unlawful or dangerous act face a custodial sentence of up to 18 years.

While the definition of manslaughter; ‘an unlawful killing done without an intention to kill or to cause grievous bodily harm’, seems to match what happened to Johnson- Petgrave didn’t intend to kill Johnson- the ‘unlawful’ bit doesn’t… 

What makes a death unlawful? 

When the death occurs as a result of either recklessness/gross negligence where the offendant shows disregard to the potential consequences, as in involuntary manslaughter, or due to a dangerous act where the offendant knew that what they were doing was wrong, as in unlawful manslaughter (clue in the name), neither of which apply to Johnson’s death.

Free Will

When a drug dealer who supplies drugs to someone who later dies as a result of having taken them is not guilty of manslaughter because the law recognises the existence of free will, why is sport any different?

While yes, it was a dangerous act that led to Johnson’s death, Petgrave should not be held to account, in my opinion, for ice hockey as a sport is dangerous.

And so, if partaking in what is undoubtedly a risky sport- skating around an ice rink at high speeds in a competitive game- causes injury or, tragically in Johnson’s case, death, with the exception of ‘dirty’/’foul play’, surely it cannot be deemed ‘manslaughter’, because they actively decided to take that risk, knowing that the risk of injury* was always there.

*(Injury and, apparently, jail time)…

Ice hockey players run the risk of facing up to twenty years in prison every time they get on the ice

Because ice hockey is a dangerous game, there’s no getting away from that fact, players will have to consider if they really want to continue in the sport knowing the risks, not just of injury, but of potential jail time.

If Petgrave is charged with manslaughter, then I would imagine that there will be lots of players who are left feeling the need to reconsider their involvement in the sport…

Who is responsible then?

Surely if anyone is to be held to account here it should be the English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA) for failing to impose proper safety measures in what is irrefutably a dangerous game.

The English Ice Hockey Association has announced that all players must wear neck guards from the start of next year, but isn’t this a case of them ‘shutting the door after the horse has already bolted’? Why wasn’t this already a requirement?

At present, neck guards are mandatory only for players aged under 20.

Why did it take someone losing their life for them to take action and make neck guards mandatory for everyone?

One response to “Why Is Matt Petgrave Being Accused Of Manslaughter?”

  1. Totally agree. I have watched ice hockey for years and it has always been a dangerous and aggressive sport. Players know this and fans love the drama on the ice.
    I dont understand why Matt would be charged of any of the above.
    The IIHA, EIHA etc, should make it mandatory for players to wear neck guards now. Not next year.

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