The following is an excerpt from Joe Bertagna's column in Stops and Starts:
By the time you read this, perhaps some of the shock of Jim Johannson's sudden passing might have worn off. I got the news from three voice mails left to me on a Sunday morning, messages I retrieved while still in hockey gear after a morning skate.
"JJ" touched a lot of people in his 53 years. He was a competent and passionate hockey guy who loved what he did for a living. He bore so many of the common characteristics that we, as hockey people, like to think we all share. Honest, hard-working, affable, dedicated. As to the latter, he was certainly dedicated to USA Hockey and to his family. And like many hockey people, he carried on a tradition of service passed along to him by his father, Ken.
Johannson had put together quite a hockey resume which included an NCAA championship while playing at Wisconsin, being drafted by the Hartford Whalers, Olympic appearances in 1988 and 1992, and unparalleled success putting together international teams for USA Hockey over the last decade or so.
"His impact on hockey was felt globally," said USA Hockey Executive Director Pat Kelleher. "He was the face of USA Hockey for every hockey Federation in the world."
"He gave a personal touch to USA Hockey," said Harvard coach Ted Donato. Donato played on the 1992 Olympic Team and will watch his son Ryan play on the 2018 team that Johannson put together.
Tom Osenton, who worked with the University of Wisconsin back in Jim's Badger days and who has consulted with USA Hockey more recently, had this to say, "JJ was destined to be one of America's greatest hockey ambassadors. His passion, dedication, and hard work were certainly unsurpassed. But it was his unquenchable curiosity and thirst to deepen his hockey knowledge and especially hockey relationships at all levels worldwide that set him apart. He is truly part of U.S. hockey royalty — personally influenced by so many of our legends, including his father Ken, Bob Johnson, Jeff Sauer, Dave Peterson, Art Berglund, Tim Taylor, Ben Smith, Tony Granato and so many others."
A recent comment by Johannson appears on the USA Hockey website, referencing his last assignment where as GM of the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team, he assembled the roster that will compete in South Korea. Said Johannson, "I've had a lot of fun at USA Hockey, but one of the most fun days I've had was calling fifteen or sixteen guys early one morning from my house to tell them that they were on the 2018 Olympic team. And the second time was telling the last few guys that they made the team. It meant so much to me that I got to call those guys and tell them that they were going to represent us. I know how much it meant to those players at this point in their careers. I know they will represent us well."
Anyone wishing to honor Jim's memory can do so by contributing to the Jim Johannson Legacy Fund. The Jim Johannson Legacy Fund will support the continued efforts of growing, developing and strengthening American hockey players through initiatives such as player development of our National Junior Team, National Team, National Team Development Program and Olympic Teams. To make a donation, go to usahockeyfoundation. com.
– Joe Bertagna
Joe's full column is available in each edition of Stops and Starts - The Official Publication of the American Hockey Coaches Association. Each AHCA Member has access to current and archived editions of Stops and Starts in our Member's Only Section and can read Joe's full column in each edition of Stops and Starts.