Adam Johnson, the former NHL player who died after suffering a cut to his neck while playing in a hockey game in England last month, had his No.47 jersey number retired by his Elite Ice Hockey League club as part of a pregame ceremony on Saturday.
The Nottingham Panthers returned to the ice for the first time since the October 28 incident and received a standing ovation from their home crowd. Players and coaches then honored their late teammate with a memorial before taking on the Manchester Storm as both teams gathered near center ice while highlights of Johnson’s hockey career played on the scoreboard.
The game ended in a 4-4 tie but will not count in the Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) standings.
“It was very special, ” Nottingham head coach Jonathan Paredes told the media postgame. “I don’t have many words. I’m very proud of the guys and the steps we’ve accomplished since the event. I’m proud of the staff, proud of the organization, proud of the support we’ve received from our fans from all around the world, and we’ll go step by step. …[Adam was a] nice person, a good human, a good person, a good guy, and a good kid. I really enjoyed coaching him and talking with him. … I can only say good words about who he was as a person.”
The Associated Press (AP) reported that Nottingham players also wore protective neck guards after the league recently voiced its “strong encouragement” for wearing the extra protection layer, and both teams wore custom-designed jerseys with Johnson’s No.47 displayed on the front.
Johnson’s neck was cut by an opponent’s skate during the second period of a game against the Sheffield Steelers late last month, and he was transported to Sheffield’s Northern General Hospital, where he later died.
The EIHL canceled all games the following day, and Nottingham did not return to the ice until Saturday’s game.
Initially described as a “freak accident,” police in Sheffield opened an investigation and arrested a man on suspicion of manslaughter charges earlier this week. The investigation remains ongoing.
The Panthers have also created a GoFundMe fund to support Johnson’s hometown of Hibbing, Minnesota, in his memory.