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NHL Tragedies: The Deaths That Have Rocked the Hockey World

Recent NHL Tragedies Deaths That Have Rocked the Hockey World
Chris Simon, Konstantin Koltsov, Adam Johnson. Getty Images(3)

A series of tragic deaths, both on and off the ice, has left the world or professional hockey in mourning.

On March 18, 2024, former NHL players Konstantin Koltsov and Chris Simon were announced dead in separate instances, the latest in a string of recent passings to rock the sport.

Koltsov, who played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, was pronounced dead at the age of 42 after jumping from a hotel balcony in Miami.

Simon, who played for seven different NHL franchises, died by suicide at the age of 52. After his death, Simon’s family raised concerns about his years of battling CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) as a result of his hockey career.

For more information about their deaths and others, keep reading:

Konstantin Koltsov

Recent NHL Tragedies Deaths That Have Rocked the Hockey World
Courtesy of Aryna Sabalenka/Instagram

Belarusian hockey player Koltsov died in March 2024 at the age of 42.

“According to investigators on Monday, March 18, 2024, at approximately 12:39 a.m., Bal Harbour Police and Fire Rescue were dispatched to the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort, 9703 Collins Avenue, in reference to a male that jumped from a balcony,” the Miami-Dade Police Department said in a statement to Us Weekly. No foul play was suspected.

Koltsov was drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1999 and played a total of 144 games for the franchise from 2003-2006.

In addition, Koltsov formerly dated tennis player Aryna Sabalenka, who remembered her former partner after his death.

“Konstantin’s death is an unthinkable tragedy, and while we were no longer together, my heart is broken,” Sabalenka wrote via her Instagram Story after his death. “Please respect my privacy and his family’s privacy during this difficult time.”

Chris Simon

Recent NHL Tragedies Deaths That Have Rocked the Hockey World
Denis Moskvinov/KHL Photo Agency via Getty Images

The NHL journeyman and Stanley Cup champion died on March 18, 2024, at the age of 52. In a statement, Simon’s family indicated he had died by suicide. “The family strongly believes and witnessed firsthand that Chris struggled immensely from CTE which unfortunately resulted in his death,” the statement read.

CTE is a progressive degenerative disease that affects individuals with repeated concussions and multiple traumatic brain injuries.

After being drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 1990, Simon was traded to the Quebec Nordiques in the deal that sent Eric Lindros to Philadelphia. Simon followed the Nordiques to Denver when they became the Colorado Avalanche, winning a Stanley Cup with the franchise during the 1995-1996 season. Throughout his 16-year NHL career, Simon also played for the Washington Capitals, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers, Calgary Flames, New York Islanders and Minnesota Wild.

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Adam Johnson

Johnson was killed during a freak on-ice incident on October 28, 2023, while playing in Sheffield, United Kingdom. He was 29 years old.

A one-time member of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Johnson was playing for the Nottingham Panthers when he was cut across the neck by an opposing player’s skate blade during a game, causing him to bleed out.

After being sliced by the skate of the Sheffield Steelers’ Matt Petgrave, Johnson attempted to skate to the bench before collapsing on the ice. He was transported to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

In the aftermath, the South Yorkshire Police indicated they had opened an investigation into Johnson’s death. On November 14, 2023, Petgrave was arrested on charges of manslaughter in relation to the incident.

“Our investigation launched immediately following this tragedy and we have been carrying out extensive inquiries ever since to piece together the events which led to the loss of Adam in these unprecedented circumstances,” Detective Chief Superintendent Becs Horsfall said in a statement. “We have been speaking to highly specialized experts in their field to assist in our inquiries and continue to work closely with the health and safety department at Sheffield City Council, which is supporting our ongoing investigation.”

Petgrave was released on bail the following day. On February 9, 2024, his bail was extended until April 25.

After Johnson’s death, the International Ice Hockey Federation announced that protective neck guards will now be mandatory, including at the Winter Olympics.

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Rodion Amirov

Amirov, a first-round draft pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs, died August 14, 2023, at the age of 21 after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Amirov’s diagnosis was first announced in February 2022 when his agent Dan Milstein revealed he would be undergoing treatment in his home country of Germany.

Milstein announced Amirov’s death via social media, writing via X, “From the moment he received the news, he refused to speak in the negative, determined to enjoy every day, facing it with the same positive attitude he showed during his hockey career. We will always remember his courage, his desire, his will, his smile, all of the great things about him.”

Nic Kerdiles

The former Anaheim Ducks forward died September 23, 2023, in a motorcycle crash in Nashville. He was 29 years old.

According to police, Kerdiles drove his motorcycle through a stop sign and hit the driver’s side of an SUV. Neither Kerdiles or the other driver were found to be impaired.

In addition to his professional hockey career, Kerdiles was the one-time fiancé of reality star Savannah Chrisley. The couple announced their split in September 2020.

On the day of his death, Chrisley remembered her former partner via her Instagram Story. “Heaven gained the most beautiful angel today. I miss you and I love you,” she captioned a snap from their 2019 engagement photo shoot. “I’ll forever save our last messages of ‘I love you.’”

Gino Odjick

The former NHL enforcer died January 15, 2023, at the age of 52 after suffering a heart attack.

Odjick, who spent eight seasons with the Vancouver Canucks, suffered multiple concussions during his playing career. After his death, Odjick’s longtime friend Peter Leech told Postmedia that Odjick was likely suffering from CTE. Leech said his Odjick was in constant pain in the time before his death and “was starting to show signs of forgetfulness, repeating things.”

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