Our reporter Ellie-Rose Griffiths was at the game...
Nottingham Panthers players returned to the ice on Saturday evening for a memorial match dedicated to Adam Johnson.
The ice hockey player died in hospital on 28 October after being hit in the neck by an opposition player’s skate during the Panthers’ away Challenge Cup match against Sheffield Steelers.
A man has been arrested on suspicion of manslaughter and has been bailed to a date in the new year as inquiries continue.
On Saturday 18 November, players and fans gathered for the game where they paid tribute to their former teammate.
The Panthers, who had not played since Johnson’s death, were joined by Manchester Storm for the exhibition game, which was hoped could help bring the team and fans together as they look to move forward.
Fans have continued to lay tributes outside the Motorpoint 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.
Players were cheered onto the ice for the warm-up, with both teams wearing special game jerseys, which were set to be raffled afterwards.
All 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.
The sell-out crowd chanted Johnson’s name as the players took to the ice before making their way to the centre.
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.
When the action got underway, Michael Korol opened the scoring for Manchester in the first quarter. Still, the Panthers swiftly got back on level terms as Ollie Betteridge slotted in a rebound only 15 seconds later.
Officials paused the match during the third quarter at the 47th minute of play as more applause erupted for Johnson, with fans on their feet and cheering, while players banged sticks on the ice.
The final score was 4-4, with both player-of-the-match awards given to the whole team.
The Panthers, who have withdrawn from the Challenge Cup, are scheduled to resume their Elite League season against the Belfast Giants on 26 November.
An inquest into Johnson’s death was opened and adjourned on 3 November.
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.
Some Nottingham Panthers players wore neck guards during Saturday’s memorial game.
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