John­son thrilled to join Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame

The Southwest Booster - - FRONT PAGE - STEVEN MAH SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

Larry John­son is gen­er­ally a pleas­ant man, but the smile that stretched across his face on July 7 was dif­fi­cult to es­cape.

The long­time player, coach, and ded­i­cated vol­un­teer to hockey in Swift Cur­rent was in­ducted into the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame that evening af­ter a life­time com­mit­ted to that game that he loved.

“This is tremen­dous to be in­ducted into the Saskatchewan Hockey of Fame and to be with peo­ple of the qual­ity of Hay­ley Wick­en­heiser and Ron Delorme and Bill Hicke,” said a beam­ing John­son dur­ing the in­duc­tion ban­quet. “It’s just awe­some.”

John­son be­gan play­ing hockey at the age of four and his coach­ing ca­reer spanned over four decades, be­gin­ning in 1974 and con­cluded in 2015.

“Those years I’ll never for­get. I will never for­get the day I started with the teams and ev­ery player. I think I have be­come good friends with all the play­ers. You don’t see very many very of­ten but when we do I’ll never for­get them. They are the ones that com­mit­ted to the game and helped me along.”

The in­duc­tion ban­quet was an op­por­tu­nity for John­son to re­flect on a life­time worth of mem­o­ries in the hockey world.

“There’s lots over 40 years. The fel­low­ship that we had, I learned a lot from the young peo­ple. I hope that I was able to pass along some hockey knowl­edge to them. We were suc­cess­ful. I en­joyed ev­ery year. We were con­tin­u­ally learn­ing the game of hockey,” ex­plained John­son.

Ste­wart Val­ley’s Travis Moen played two sea­sons un­der John­son on the Swift Cur­rent Pee­wee Kings be­fore go­ing on to skate for the Ana­heim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Mon­treal Cana­di­ens, and Dal­las Stars in the Na­tional Hockey League.

“Larry was an amaz­ing coach for us. We were at that age where it was our first year of rep hockey and Larry was such a calm­ing per­son, never re­ally yelled at us, tried to teach us things the best he could. That was the first year we were re­ally learn­ing sys­tems back in Swift Cur­rent. He was just a guy you could talk to, wouldn’t yell at you, made sure you un­der­stood ev­ery­thing. He was a calm pres­ence on the bench,” said Moen.

John­son fa­mously cut Moen from the Kings in his first sea­son of Pee­wee el­i­gi­bil­ity.

“We talk about it all the time. I was def­i­nitely dev­as­tated about get­ting cut,” said Moen. “Luck­ily they came and watched me a cou­ple weeks later and I got AP’D and then even­tu­ally made the team. It was just one of those things. You can tell ev­ery par­ent in hockey right now that kids have off week­ends and it’s hard to pick a hockey team, it re­ally is, es­pe­cially with the first-years where every­body blends in and it’s re­ally hard to pick. It was ob­vi­ously dev­as­tat­ing for me, but I learned from it and grew as a player from there.”

John­son won four pro­vin­cial ti­tles as a coach, two at Pee­wee and two at the Ban­tam level, but his im­pact was about so much more than wins and losses. Other coaches have won more games and pro­vin­cial ti­tles. Oth­ers yet have sent many more play­ers to the NHL. But John­son al­ways used his role as coach to de­velop young men and women both on and off the ice.

“I think the best thing about Larry was that he treated us like we were grown ups, we weren’t just kids to him,” said Brett Dickie, who played Pee­wee un­der John­son and went on to play five sea­sons in the Western Hockey League. “He wouldn’t cod­dle us. He was treat­ing us like we were grown up peo­ple and kept hold­ing us ac­count­able, mak­ing us show up on time, those are all things that in our day to day lives as adults we learned from him.”

Shortly af­ter play­ing for John­son, Dickie was drafted 13th over­all in the 1998 WHL Ban­tam Draft and suited up for 360 WHL games with the Bran­don Wheat Kings and Prince Ge­orge Cougars

“Com­ing into Pee­wee was when we re­ally started to spe­cial­ize on sys­tems, po­si­tional play, re­ally mould­ing peo­ple for cer­tain parts of their game. Larry was the one who re­ally got me to a stay at home de­fense­man, solid de­fen­sively, penalty kill, not so much the of­fen­sive side, which that wasn’t part of my game. Larry was prob­a­bly the one that got me into that kind of game and that’s what kind of car­ried me on to the ju­nior ranks.”

John­son, Moen, and Dickie would win a pro­vin­cial cham­pi­onship to­gether with the Pee­wee Kings and a number of those play­ers were in at­ten­dance to see John­son in­ducted into the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame.

“It was an amaz­ing sea­son,” said Moen. “We had a great team. I don’t know how many games we lost that year, but it wasn’t too many. I re­mem­ber be­ing in North Bat­tle­ford the clock beat­ing down three, two, one, every­body jump­ing on the ice. It was such an amaz­ing feel­ing, es­pe­cially at that age, the first thing you’ve ever re­ally won and you cher­ish it with your team­mates, with Larry and Harv [Barker]. It was a pretty cool ex­pe­ri­ence for a 12-year-old.”

One of John­son’s fi­nal and most no­table ac­com­plish­ments was work­ing with Bobbi-jo Slusar to es­tab­lish the Swift Cur­rent Wheel­chair Hockey pro­gram.

“I al­ways felt that I had to give some­thing back to the com­mu­nity and that was a way that I could do it. I felt that the young peo­ple in wheel­chairs and peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties would love to have an op­por­tu­nity to play the game. It was easy to start and I en­joyed ever minute of it. They loved it!”

STEVEN MAH/SOUTH­WEST BOOSTER

Swift Cur­rent’s Larry John­son (left) was in­ducted into the Saskatchewan Hockey Hall of Fame.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.