Patrick Johnson carving his own path in hockey

Patrick Johnson has become one of the top players on the Wheeling Nailers. (Candice Monhollan)

Patrick Johnson has become one of the top players on the Wheeling Nailers. (Candice Monhollan)

Patrick Johnson knew that it was inevitable that he’d play hockey. How couldn’t he with his father being Mark Johnson – most famous for playing on the 1980 USA Olympic hockey team – and his grandfather, legendary “Badger” Bob Johnson?

“Everybody in our family ended up [playing hockey],” Johnson said. “My two sisters that are younger play hockey, too. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, you’re going to play hockey if you’re in our family.”

He started at a young age, lacing up skates for the first time when he was around 2 years old in Austria while his father played for Zell am See EK.

With the background he has, Johnson had to face living under the shadow of his family and the criticisms of others that he was only where he was because of his father.

“I always had people saying I got here because of my dad and I did this because of my dad,” he said.

Playing hockey when he was younger, he admitted he felt pressured to live up to his family name. That all changed when his father had a talk with him.

“I had a conversation with him in high school that I’m not going to be the player that he was and I never will be,” Johnson said. “That took a lot off my back and I can just be my own player now.”

Johnson said he knows the kind of player his father was, having collected 508 points in 669 games in the NHL, but he also realizes that’s not who he is.

“He’s absolutely a goal scorer, [with] assists and all the points and all that,” Johnson said. “I’m more of a grinder kind of guy – I’m in the corners and stuff. I won’t be anything like him and I won’t have the same points close to what he had.”

Though he may consider himself a grinder, his first year of pro has him third on the Wheeling Nailers in goals (6) and fourth in points (17) through 24 games.

“I knew Johnny would be up there in points,” said Nailers head coach Clark Donatelli. “I know it’s his first year of pro, but I knew he would be a solid guy in the locker room – that he would be a solid teammate and he’d give it his all every single night. It’s in his blood and he knows what it’s all about.”

The pro life with the Nailers is a new experience for Johnson, who spent the last four years playing at the University of Wisconsin.

“It’s interesting,” Johnson said. “It’s a different life than college. You have practice and then after that you can do what you please. You don’t have school or anything like that. You basically just focus on hockey.”

Donatelli relies on the 22 year old from Madison, Wis., to fill a variety of roles on the team.

“He’s a type of player who can do it all,” Johnson said. “He’s on the power play, he kills penalties, he plays 4-on-4, he plays center, he plays right wing and left wing. He’s like a utility guy out there. We’re just glad to have him.”

As far as the future goes for Johnson, he’s not sure where he will end up. He could see himself either following his family’s footsteps and becoming a coach, or else choosing a different path and becoming a firefighter.

But for now, the young center will focus on continuing his strong play of late and try to help the Nailers win every night.

“Everybody needs to work on something, Johnson said. “For me, it’s just staying with it and playing the way that I can play [and] not trying to be a goal scorer or assist maker or anything like that. [Pro life] is a fun experience and the first year is going really well.”

NOTE: Johnson retired from hockey on Dec. 19 after the story was written.

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Categories: ECHL, Features, Ice Hockey, Sports

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One Comment on “Patrick Johnson carving his own path in hockey”

  1. December 23, 2011 at 6:31 PM #

    Great article Candice! Such a shame he ended up retiring, glad you still wrote the story though.

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