American Johnson, 29, died in hospital on October 28 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 been bailed to a date in the new year as inquiries continue.
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 forwards.
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 under way, Michael Korol opened the scoring for Manchester in the first quarter but the Panthers swiftly got back on level terms as Ollie Betteridge slotted in a rebound only 15 seconds later.
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.
Published: by Radio NewsHub
Written by: Radio News Hub