Belfast Giants pay tribute to Adam Johnson at SSE Arena after tragic death of Nottingham Panthers star
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The Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL) are now recommending players wear protective neck guards but haven’t made them compulsory, but the English Ice Hockey Association have moved to make wearing them mandatory for all on-ice activities from 2024.
Saturday marked the Giants’ first home match since the incident as both head coaches, Adam O’Keefe and Paul Dixon, laid wreathes in Johnson’s memory while fans and players observed a minute’s silence and applause.
A tribute video of Johnson’s career highlights was also played in the arena and O’Keefe says it has been a “devastating time for hockey”.
"I’ve been lost for words for most of the week,” said O’Keefe, who wore a ‘47’ badge on his suit in tribute to Johnson’s shirt number. “It’s just a really tragic event.
"Our entire team and organisation’s thoughts are with Adam’s family, his fiancée, the entire Nottingham organisation, Sheffield, everybody who was in attendance and the medical group that attended the scene.
"It’s a devastating time for hockey and mostly for those that were involved.
"We send our support and love to them.”
The Giants fell to a 4-3 defeat with former player Lewis Hook scoring twice, including the decisive winner in the second period.
"It was another one that got away from us,” reflected O’Keefe. “I liked our game and our energy.
"I thought we generated enough scoring opportunities to win that hockey game.
"We hit the crossbar, a few landed on the goal line and they just weren’t going in for us.
"We gave up a little too much on the back end and ultimately special teams giving up two goals against and going zero for on the powerplay and me losing the coach’s play as well – these things cost us the game.
"It is what it is. Right now we’re in one and the only way out is to dig ourselves out and there’s no better place to do that going into Manchester’s building (on Sunday).
"It’s a much smaller building, a much different game and we’re going to have to be more direct and play for each other. That’s what we need right now.”