Adam Johnson's teammates defend Matt Petgrave amid social media backlash: 'We stand behind him'

Members of the Nottingham Panthers are supporting Matt Petgrave in the wake of the Adam Johnson tragedy.

Grotesquely, more than a few people inside and outside the hockey world have attempted to argue that there was some intent behind Matt Petgrave’s skate cutting Adam Johnson in last weekend’s freak, fatal accident in the UK.

Johnson tragically died from that awful moment, one that’s inspiring discussions about protective neck gear in the NHL and at other levels of the sport. When it comes to the much uglier — and sometimes possibly racist — discussion about Petgrave’s intentions, Johnson’s teammates are having none of it.

Adam Johnson’s teammates ‘wholeheartedly stand' with Matt Petgrave

Johnson’s Nottingham Panthers faced Petgrave’s Sheffield Steelers in the EIHL game that ended with that medical emergency on Saturday. While everyone involved still attempts to process what happened, members of the Panthers have spoken out against absurd and cruel criticisms of Petgrave.

“I need to address something about the accident. We wholeheartedly stand with Matt Petgrave,” Westin Michaud tweeted on Monday. “The hate that Matt is receiving is terrible and completely uncalled for. I was at ice level on the bench closest to the accident, I saw both players moving fast.

"The unintentional clip of the Panther player's leg by the Sheffield player caused the somersault. It's clear to me his actions were unintentional and anyone suggesting otherwise is mistaken. Let's come together and not spread unwarranted hate to someone who needs our support.”

Adam Johnson's teammates have Matt Petgrave's back. (Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Adam Johnson's teammates have Matt Petgrave's back. (Photo by Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Victor Bjorkung, another member of the Panthers, echoed those sentiments in a Swedish interview with Expressen.

“What Matt has experienced is unimaginable,” Bjorkung said, via a Google translation. “I don't understand how some people can behave, it's inhuman. I have texted him and expressed how I feel about everything and I support him. No one in our team thinks it's his fault, quite the opposite. We stand behind him.”

Bjorkung said anyone who thinks Petgrave's actions were intentional "can go to hell."

"It's so insane that people think it's deliberate," Bjorkung said. "Check the video, then you will see that it is an accident. Two skates collide right before, it goes so damn fast. There is no chance it is deliberate.

"What I can say to those who believe otherwise is to listen to the people who were there and those who saw in real time. I was a couple of meters away, so if anyone experienced it as it really was, it was me."

The EIHL postponed all of its games on Tuesday and Wednesday. While elements of the league’s schedule are in flux, it’s already been determined that neither the Panthers nor the Steelers will resume play this weekend. All of the league’s other games will include tributes to Johnson.