The Wolverine

December 2012

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 83 of 91

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Hockey's Jack Johnson Is Enjoying Change Of Scenery S BY CHRIS BALAS guy looking to leave early. A Michi- gan legacy, following a U-M mother and a grandfather who played three sports in the 1930s, the West Bloom- field, Mich., native grew up on U-M football and hockey, hoping for noth- ing more than a four-year career in the winged helmet. The Carolina Hurricanes had other pros as soon as possible. That's what some might have assumed of former Michigan defenseman Jack Johnson, a physical blue liner with offensive skills in a 6-1, 225-pound frame whose two years in Ann Arbor gave the Yost Arena faithful a glimpse of his talent and a wanting for more. Johnson, though, was never the ome NHL talents attend college with the goal of making it to the ideas when they drafted him fol- lowing his senior year at Shattuck- St. Mary's Boarding School in Min- nesota. It wasn't, however, the allure of NHL green that got him to leave Ann Arbor after two years — it was more the thought of donning the red, white and blue for the United States at the 2010 Olympic Games, a dream he realized. Johnson currently spends five days a week in southeast Michigan pre- paring for the end of a frustrating lockout, ready to rejoin the Colum- bus Blue Jackets franchise to which he was traded last year by the Los Angeles Kings. He's in Ann Arbor as often as he can be, working toward his degree in the offseason and hang- ing around Yost. "Jack feels like a lot of us do — this is his second home," Michigan hockey coach Red Berenson said. "He's had some great memories from here, even though he was only here for two years. He couldn't wait to get here. "He came to our camp in the sum- mers. We make him feel at home whether he comes here to work out or just to visit with everybody, be- cause he's one of those guys that in only two short years, he made a real mark." 84 THE WOLVERINE DECEMBER 2012 Johnson, who was traded from Los Angeles to Columbus last year, has compiled 34 goals and to-end ability quickly made him a Yost fan favorite. He set freshman de- fenseman records in points and min- utes in proving his ability, prompting the Hurricanes to attempt to get him to leave after only a year. His deci- sion to stay resulted in a trade to the Los Angeles Kings, but Johnson had more to accomplish at U-M before leaving. He earned CCHA Defense- man of the Year honors after setting a Michigan sophomore record with 16 goals by a defenseman in leading the Wolverines to an NCAA Tournament bid and a 26-14-1 record. "Until I was drafted, I thought it Johnson's physical play and end- was possible the last game of my se- nior year might be my last game of organized hockey," Johnson recalled. "I never had illusions growing up of NHL or bust. Just all of a sudden 104 assists in 364 games during his first five NHL seasons. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS the opportunity presented itself that, 'Hey, I can do this for a living.' "Emotionally, I was not ready to leave Michigan. I would have liked to play there for the next 25 years. Athletically, it was time. That was really the case. It was always a huge goal to someday play in the Olym- pics, even a bigger goal than the NHL, and 2010 … I kind of had my sights set on it. Nobody else knew it but myself and my family, but that really was the motivation behind leaving my sophomore year." The transition proved smooth on the ice, tougher off. Johnson went from hanging with his teammates 24/7 in college to going to the rink for practice in Los Angeles, then wherever he could to keep himself busy when his older teammates went home to their families.

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