Adam Johnson’s family and friends spoke of his sharp banter, genuine personality and infectious, sly smile Monday while honoring his life at a memorial service in his hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota.
An estimated 3,000 people inside Hibbing Memorial Arena rose to a standing ovation after Johnson’s fiancée, Ryan Wolfe, read a letter she wrote to him.
“You are a special person. You had the best sense of humor, the biggest heart, the quickest wit, and the kindest soul. You are loyal, loyal, and incredibly smart,” she said. “I’m so lucky to have loved you and loved you unconditionally.”
Monday’s memorial came nine days after Johnson, a former NHL forward and player for the Nottingham Panthers in England, died after what his team described as a “freak accident” in a game in Britain’s top hockey league. Johnson, 29, suffered a serious neck injury from skiing while hitting the ice.
In Hibbing, attendees ranged from family to hometown friends, including members of the Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues. Louis Blues. Jake Doherty, a friend and Hibbing/Chisholm High teammate, said Johnson “will always be our city’s hero.”
“I can’t understand what life will be like moving forward without Adam,” Doherty said. “He will be deeply missed by many. I can only hope that the many memories we have of Adam will carry us through and help us heal in time. We will never forget you, Adam. I would say to any young hockey player out there in the audience today, you strive to be like Adam.” Work hard, be a good teammate, be humble, and be proud of where you come from.
Johnson’s sister-in-law and childhood friend, Ebony Johnson, spoke of Johnson’s special relationship with her son and daughter.
“Adam has never hesitated to put anyone else before himself, and that includes his niece and nephew,” she said. “He was kind, funny and playful, but also protective, wise and understanding.”
Hibbing/Chisholm will retire Johnson’s No. 7 on December 5 before the home opener.
“Adam was much more than just a hockey player or the jersey numbers you all see lately. Adam had a way of influencing people. He made friends easily and maintained a large number of friends,” said Michael Piechnovnik, Johnson’s cousin and high school teammate. Even if it’s all over the world.’ “If you’re lucky enough to be friends with Adam, there’s something different about it. His friendships were very real and genuine.
In Hibbing, Minn., he was just “Adam”: Memories of Adam Johnson, a local hockey icon, ended too soon
The memorial concluded with AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long,” a tribute to Johnson’s youth. When he was 13, he saved up money to buy a deep-ocean blue guitar to learn how to play.
Johnson, who played two seasons with the University of Minnesota Duluth, reached the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins, recording a goal and three assists in 13 games during parts of the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons.
He joined the Nottingham Panthers this summer to play in the Elite Ice Hockey League, which has 10 teams including teams in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and England.
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The English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA) has made neck guards/protectors a mandatory piece of equipment for “players at all levels across English ice hockey” in the wake of Johnson’s death. The mandate will go into effect on January 1, 2024, but does not include the IHL, where the Panthers play.
South Yorkshire Police – the force investigating Johnson’s death – said its investigation “remains ongoing” and is likely to “take some time”. On Friday, the police investigation was postponed until January, although the investigation “is not yet complete”.
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(Photo: Michael Russo/ The athlete)
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