Adam Johnson: Family of ice hockey player fatally slashed in neck with skate during game 'knew he was in trouble'

The family of the ice hockey player who died after his throat was slashed by a skate during a game have said they knew he was "really in trouble" as soon as it happened.

The American player Adam Johnson's aunt Kari was watching him play for the Nottingham Panthers via a livestream with his father and grandmother when he was fatally injured last Saturday.

"It was terrible, it was horrific, we didn't know what to do," she told Sky News from Minnesota in the US. There was "nothing we could do", she said.

The 29-year-old had been playing at Sheffield Arena during his team's derby clash against Sheffield Steelers last Saturday when the freak accident happened - and he died of his injuries in hospital.

A vigil is being held this evening at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham, where the Panthers are based. Neither the Panthers nor the Steelers are playing this weekend.

"It means a lot to us to see how much everybody thought of our boy," Ms Johnson said of the vigil. "He liked it there [Nottingham], he thought the fans were great, he was meeting some of them and really enjoying it.

"It means a lot to our family. It means the world."

She described watching the game via a livestream with his family, and how they "knew right away he was in trouble".

One of his teammates eventually got hold of his phone and called Johnson's father, saying he would keep in touch.

After hearing Johnson had died, his aunt said: "We all just broke down - it was a mess, it was a nightmare, it was like it wasn't real. We were in shock, we couldn't believe this was happening."

Ms Johnson described her nephew as a "kind soul" and a "private kid" who would "never would have wanted to be in the limelight like this".

He simply wanted to be "good at hockey and have fun", she said, adding that he was "having the time of his life in the UK" and was planning to get engaged to his girlfriend.

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It was announced on Friday that the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) will not be making neck guards mandatory following Johnson's death.

Ms Johnson thinks they should be. "When kids start playing in youth hockey, if you get them used to wearing it it's just going to be like any other piece of equipment," she said.

A funeral will be held on Sunday in Johnson's hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota.