May 22, 2016

Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson of New Hope, Minnesota played in 13 seasons in the National Hockey League, totalling 829 career games.

Johnson jumped directly to the National Hockey League after graduating from the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Even though he earned a reputation for himself as a solid defender and the school's all time leader in penalty minutes, he was never drafted by a NHL team. The Pittsburgh Penguins would sign him as a free agent in 1985.

He immediately established himself as a solid defensive defenseman. He sacrificed his average-sized body effectively, be it to take out intruding forwards or to block shots. He had excellent strength and was not afraid to battle. He came to work every night and his enthusiasm was contagious.

Offensively Johnson was not much of a presence. He kept his point shots low and got them through traffic with regularity. It allowed him to gather some assists on deflections and rebound goals. But his long stick was best used defensively to take the puck away from attackers.

Johnson played with the Penguins until December of 1990. It was a bittersweet move for Johnson, who was traded home to Minnesota. But he had worked so hard to help the Penguins emerge as a Stanley Cup contender, and now he left just before they would win back to back Stanley Cup titles in 1991 and 1992.

To make matters worse, he had a great view of Pittsburgh's first championship, as Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and company lit up the Minnesota North Stars to win the Cup in 1991.

After following the Stars franchise to Dallas Johnson was spent time in Washington and Phoenix. Through it all he remained a reliable, steady defender and a quiet leader. Coaches and teammates loved his contributions, even if the headline writers overlooked them.

Unfortunately Jim Johnson's career came to a sudden end thanks to a serious head injury suffered in a Coyotes game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In total the stay-at-home defenseman scored 29 goals, 166 assists and 195 point his career. He also represented the United States at four World Championships and the 1991 Canada Cup.

Johnson stepped behind the bench after hanging up his skates.

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