Sheffield Steelers search for two new "Aarons"
Aaron Johnson's Sheffield Steelers' playing career is over - it was effectively ended by the coronavirus lockdown.
The 38-year-old had initially agreed a new contract to return to the Arena blue line for season 2020-21.
But the EIHL season had to be condensed to a five week tournament because of the pandemic and Johnson opted instead to continue to develop his coaching ambitions in the US.
He has been working as an assistant coach in the ECHL for the Allen Americans, in Texas.
Johnson previously played in 291 NHL games over eight seasons, on top of 429 AHL matches - his knowledge and presence is widely acknowledged by those he has played alongside in Sheffield.
Now Steelers have had to bid goodbye to him - and also confirmed a Star story published in May that his team-mate Aaron Brocklehurt, 36, has also moved on. He has become a police officer in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Coach Aaron Fox will miss the two other Aarons.
He said: "AJ was super excited and ready to come back for the 2020-21 season that was cut short.
"He’s a guy who is an absolute true pro and conducts himself so professionally on and off the ice and I was really excited to get a fully healthy AJ back for that year.
“With no season and a long time off Aaron has taken steps into some coaching back home.
I keep in touch with him every couple weeks. He is such a competitor and I know loved his time with the Steelers in Sheffield.
“Likewise, Brock; he came in and played such a steady calming game back there for us in 2019-20.
“Such a smooth skating D that played in all the key situations for us. He battled through some injuries and was great in our room.
“After the season he enlisted in the Canadian police force and we knew that he wouldn’t be back. He played a key role in our Challenge Cup victory and progression in challenging Cardiff for the league title.
“I just wanted to go on record in thanking them both for their time and professionalism and wish him nothing but the best in the future.
“They leave a hole in our defence, one I’m trying to fill right now with players of their quality and attitude.”
In a previous interview with The Star, the retiring Brocklehurst said: "What a way that was to go out - winning a Cup with all those Sheffield fans in that barn (Cardiff.)"