'Emotional' return for Sheffield Steelers after death of Nottingham Panthers' Adam Johnson

  • Video from Sheffield Steelers

Sheffield Steelers' head coach has said his team's return to the ice following the death of Nottingham Panthers player Adam Johnson has been "emotional".

Johnson suffered a fatal cut to the neck from Steelers player Matt Petgrave's skate during their Challenge Cup match on 28 October.

The game was abandoned and fans were asked to leave the Sheffield Arena as medics tried to save him on the ice. He later died in hospital.

Adam Johnson was 29 when he died in a "freak accident" during a game against Sheffield Steelers last month. Credit: Panther Images

Speaking after a 2-1 league win against Coventry Blaze on Sunday, head coach Aaron Fox said the team knew it "wasn't going to be easy" when they returned to playing.

"We talked about the emotions and what this night was going to be like," he said.

"We knew that we were going to have to get out here and get back in this building and get back playing hockey again.

"Those first shifts are important ones to find your game but not overdo it... get back to being hockey players and being out here doing what you love."

He also described the challenges of trying to manage the highly unusual situation as a head coach, but said the players had been "outstanding" throughout.

"You're just going off feelings and taking each guy as an individual - there is no playbook for this, and I'm sure that it hasn't been perfect to everybody," said Fox.

"It hasn't been easy, it's been more difficult on some than others, but that's absolutely normal.

"I could have had three or four guys come up to me yesterday and say 'I can't go' and that would have been OK too," he said.

"I think everyone in that room knows that we as a staff, we as an organisation, have what's in their best interests as people [at heart] right now versus [being] hockey players."

Fox said training during the week had taken a less formal approach than usual, allowing the players to take things in their own time as they got back into their normal routine.

The team's first game back following the tragedy was a 4-1 away win in the Challenge Cup against Manchester Storm on Saturday.

"We had a couple of optional days where the guys came back into the building, had a few workouts, had a couple of optional skates," he said.

"We'd hoped that everybody would touch the ice at least once before Saturday."

According to Fox, the players have been rallying round to help each other process it all.

"There's been tons of support through our group right now, they're supporting each other.

"They've really stuck together and taken this as a way to get closer," he said.

"It's been emotional."

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