The English hockey team on which Adam Johnson played retired his No. 47 jersey on Saturday as part of a memorial game honoring the American who died after an opposing player’s skate cut his neck during a game.
Nottingham Panthers players also appeared to be wearing neck guards, although the team did not confirm this.
The Panthers made the jersey announcement moments before the start of their game against the Manchester Storm as players from both teams formed a circle at center ice at Motorpoint Arena.
“He will always be our number 47,” announcer Stef Litchfield said. “He was not only an excellent hockey player, but also a great teammate. He was an incredible person with his whole life ahead of him. We will miss him dearly.”
The Panthers had not played since their Oct. 28 game last month in Sheffield.
The death of the 29-year-old former Pittsburgh Penguins player not only forced the sport to reexamine safety standards, but also sparked a local criminal investigation that led to the arrest of a man on suspicion of involuntary manslaughter.
The game, which was streamed for free on YouTube, does not count toward the Elite Ice Hockey League standings. Instead, it was meant to unite players and fans as they tried to move forward.
“We’re not just hockey fans, we’re a hockey family,” Panthers fan Margaret Cartwright said before the game while visiting a makeshift shrine where fans have left flowers, wreaths, jerseys, team scarves and notes written to hand in honor of Johnson.
Panthers players received a standing ovation as they came out for warmups and some waved and chatted with fans between shots.
In the third period, play was stopped in the 47th minute for a minute of applause from the 10,000 fans in the sold-out stadium. The coaches, players and officials also applauded.
A post-mortem examination confirmed that Johnson died as a result of a neck injury. South Yorkshire Police did not identify the suspect or provide his age. He was arrested on Tuesday and released on bail a day later.
Sheffield Steelers defenseman Matt Petgrave was the other player involved in the incident. Johnson had skated the puck across the blue line, into Sheffield’s defensive zone, when Petgrave collided with another Panthers player nearby. Petgrave’s left skate lifted as he began to fall and the blade struck Johnson in the neck.
Neither the Steelers nor the league have provided an update on the status of Petgrave’s roster. His agent declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press earlier this week.
“Everyone deals with it in their own way, some are negative. Most of us try to be positive,” Cartwright said. “It was just a really unfortunate accident. The poor guy who caused it has to live with that for the rest of his life. I think that should be punishment enough. Nobody would do that deliberately, nobody. That’s how it happened.” , in a split second something went wrong and sadly we lost poor Adam.”
The English Ice Hockey Association, which governs the sport under the Elite League, reacted to Johnson’s death by requiring all players in England to wear neck guards from early 2024.
The match in Sheffield was part of the league’s Challenge Cup, like football’s FA Cup in Britain, but the Panthers have since withdrawn from that competition. They will resume their season against the Belfast Giants on November 26.