Supporters and team-mates of Nottingham Panthers ice hockey player Adam Johnson paid an emotional tribute to the star in the side’s first match since his tragic death.
The American, 29, died in hospital after being hit in the neck by an opposition player’s skate during a match against the Sheffield Steelers on 28 October.
On Saturday evening, the Panthers returned to ice with a Adam Johnson Memorial Game at the Motorpoint Arena in Nottingham, where further tributes were paid to their former team-mate.
Also in the stadium was Mr Johnson’s girlfriend, Ryan Wolfe, who he was going to ask to marry him, it was revealed last week.
Fans started by leaving tributes outside the arena for Johnson, who also had a spell with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the NHL and joined the Panthers ahead of the 2023–24 season. Then, during the warm-up, the players, wearing special game jerseys, were cheered.
The sell-out crowd then chanted Johnson’s name as the players made their way to the centre for a tribute.
As the lights in the arena faded, Johnson’s picture was displayed on the main scoreboard above the rink, alongside the words ‘forever our 47’ in honour of his shirt number, which will be retired in his memory.
During the pre-game ceremony, there was applause from the crowd while the players tapped their sticks on the ice.
The special jerseys worn will be raffled, with profits will be donated to the ‘Love for Hibbing & Hockey Memorial Fund’, which was established to support charitable causes in Johnson’s hometown area of Hibbing, Minnesota in the United States.
An inquest into Johnson’s death was opened and adjourned on November 3.
However, Sheffield’s senior coroner, Tanyka Rawden, has already called on the sport’s governing bodies to take action.
The English Ice Hockey Association has said neck guards will become mandatory from 2024 but the Elite League, in which the Panthers compete, is not under its control. The Elite Ice Hockey League said it will not make the use of neck guards mandatory, but will “strongly encourage” players and officials to wear them.
On 14 November, a man was arrested by South Yorkshire Police on suspicion of manslaughter following Mr Johnson’s death. He has since been released on bail pending further inquiries.