Sheffield Steelers coach Aaron Fox praises players and fans after emotional return to EIHL action at Manchester Storm
The Steelers, along with Nottingham Panthers, had not played since their Challenge Cup clash at the Utilita Arena on October 28 when Johnson tragically lost his life after his neck was cut by a skate blade.
It understandably prompted an outpouring of grief and tributes across the hockey world, as well as a lengthy, ongoing debate over whether players should be made to wear neck guards.
The English Ice Hockey Association (EIHA), the governing body that oversees all levels of hockey beneath the Elite League (EIHL), including junior hockey, said neck guards will become mandatory from January 1.
The EIHL said it will not make the use of neck guards mandatory but will “strongly encourage” players and officials to wear them following the death of Johnson.
Steelers’ players wore neck guards when they returned to the ice in Altrincham on Saturday, on what was understandably an emotional evening.
Tributes were paid to Johnson as well as Manchester’s already-planned Remembrance Day pre-game ceremony with a large number of Steelers having made the trip across the Pennines.
Once the game began, an early Patrick Watling goal put the Steelers ahead with just over eight minutes played.
The scores were level at the break after a defensive mix-up in the Steelers end allowed Mitchell Martan to slot into an empty goal with just 38 seconds remaining in the period.
Just over two minutes into the second period, captain Robert Dowd restored his team's lead before Marc-Olivier Vallerand doubled the advantage just under five minutes later.
With just over five minutes remaining, Daniel Ciampini made it 4-1 to maintain the Steelers’ 100 per cent record in Group C.
“I couldn’t have asked for more,” said Fox afterwards. “The boys certainly came to play tonight and put in a great performance
“I can’t thank the fans enough, their support was next level tonight from the moment we pulled up outside the rink to the final whistle.”