DENVER —He is enjoying the spring of his career, on and off the ice.
16 years ago, a veteran defenseman of the Avalanche waited to be playing in the Stanley Cup Final. Heading into Saturday's game 2.
Johnson also realized a childhood dream of graduating with a degree from the University of Michigan in general studies.
Both of these achievements were not easy. It was a difficult and ironic road. Johnson thought he would never be able to make it in professional hockey, but he was drawn to an education. Johnson would achieve both professional and personal success simultaneously.
“How long did it take me to complete this task? 18 years! [to finish]? Johnson joked, “Most people are at minimum a doctor at this point.” “As a child, I didn't think I would be good enough to play for the NHL. Growing up, I dreamed of playing college hockey at Michigan. I wanted to be a graduate there. It was very important to me. [To] graduate, [I'm] That's something I am proud of.”
Johnson was drafted 3rd overall despite his doubts regarding a future in the NHL.2005. The native of Indiana decided to play for Michigan's legendary coach Red Berenson instead of turning pro immediately.
Johnson stated, “I was not going to turn down that chance at any time.” “Then, after my freshman season, I realized that I wasn't physically ready enough to play in the NHL. I wanted to continue my Michigan experience. To be honest, I was not ready to leave a major university in order to take part in minors. There was no better place than it. I had the time and joy of my life, and I don’t regret it.
Johnson did not leave for the NHL in 2007 with a final promise.
Johnson stated, “I made a promise that Red Berenson would finish my work,” Johnson added. “So, he called me as soon as I could.”
Johnson used the offseason to take classes online or return for spring term. Johnson was able to access courses online that would have otherwise been held in person thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Johnson's career has not seen the Avalanche enjoy a long run at this postseason. Over several stints with, , And the Johnson had been to the playoffs just six times in his previous career.
Johnson was an unrestricted, free agent when he was brought to Colorado's training camp for a Professional Tryout. Johnson was named to the Avalanche's roster and signed a $750,000 league-minimum one-year contract. Johnson played in 74 regular-season games and scored one goal as well as nine points.
Johnson was not in the picture as Colorado began its postseason run. Johnson was an inactive participant during the Avalanche’s first round sweep.. But when? Midway through Colorado's second round matchup against Colorado, he broke his sternum Johnson was given the nod, and has remained in the lineup eversince.
He's now a Cup Final staple as a third-pairing option.
Johnson stated that Game 1 was “everything I expected it to be.” Johnson stated that Game 1 was “everything I expected.” He said, “I tried not to lose my cool going into it. Just knowing it's hockey and the adrenaline's about to kick in once I got out on the ice with all the fans and atmosphere. It was amazing. It's been a great experience. However, there is still a lot to do.
Johnson is not afraid of hard work. Johnson can handle statistics (“hardest course hands down”) as well as key shot blocks (which he did during Game 1 of the Lightning's power play).
The journeyman has one thing learned: Enjoy the ride.
Johnson spoke of the Cup's “incredibly special” experience. “You never know when you will get the opportunity to play for it. We've worked hard over the past year to reach this point. It is impossible to know when you will get back there. It took me this long for a chance to come here. It's something special, and we are trying to make the most out of it.”