Times Colonist

Fatherhood snaps Johnson’s consecutiv­e game streak

- LOWELL ULLRICH

VANCOUVER — There was a time, Wally Buono recalled, when the situation would have been different — a lot different.

Back in the day, he said, an expectant father would have given no thought to being with his wife or significan­t other upon the birth of a child, and for proof the coach and general manager of the B.C. Lions recalled how he missed the arrival of one of his four children while playing with the Montreal Alouettes.

What happened Saturday was a reminder of our changing times and complete role reversal, not to mention the end of a pretty significan­t run.

It didn’t once register with Brent Johnson that he would be anywhere but in the operating room at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver for the birth of his son as opposed being with his teammates at BC Place, who had gone to considerab­le lengths to outlast the Edmonton Eskimos and keep alive their hopes of finishing atop the CFL’S West Division standings.

Johnson’s wife, Lara, on the other hand, was still try- ing to keep up with current events at a rather busy point in her weekend.

“My wife was trying to find out the score, and I’m like ‘are you nuts?’ ” Johnson said Tuesday. “I told her not to tell me. I got to concentrat­e my worry on just one thing.”

The end of career-long, 184-game streak of consecutiv­e appearance­s ended in grand fashion, with the birth of Roman Jake Johnson by caesarean section after 46 hours of labour, a few minutes after the Lions had managed to get through a game without the 33-yearold veteran for the first time since the 2001 season.

“If you have to miss one this is the best reason to miss ever. Did I want to be there? Of course. But the most important thing was my wife and our baby. It wasn’t that hard a decision to make,” Johnson said.

If it didn’t feel odd not to be with his team for the first time as a pro it was no more of a momentous occasion than for the two players who stood in for Johnson and Keron Williams, who later went down with an ankle injury.

“It’s a different time. Things have changed. You got to respect a man’s deci- sion and move on,” said Buono, who was told about Johnson’s absence less than two hours prior to kickoff.

For linebacker­s Adam Bighill, who played a little standup defensive end his freshman year at Central Washington, and Anton Mckenzie, who had been relegated to designated import status amid all the recent roster juggling, there was no thought at all given to playing a line position that clearly was meant for those taller and heavier.

“Did it bother me I wasn’t playing [on defence]? Of course,” said Mckenzie, who has lost snaps recently to the improved play of non-import linebacker James Yurichuk. “But I know I can still make an impact. When a teammate goes down, you play.”

And play they did, not only give themselves something to talk about when they become fathers but enabling Johnson to do the same in the event his 11th CFL season ends up being the last of his career.

“The transition wasn’t that different because we had those packages in training camp,” said Buono, now able to find a silver lining for the 3-4 scheme the club thought about using.

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