Eric Johnson perseveres, hoping to fulfill his trophy dream with an avalanche

Johnson said Hinote told him how he won the Stanley Cup as a rookie with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001 and thought, “Oh, that’s a piece of cake. I got here my first year. We’ll be back. We’ll do this again for sure.”

“He never got it back, so I’m just trying to let these guys know it’s time,” Johnson said. “You have to seize this opportunity and make the most of it.”

Avalanche is in the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2001 and will face the two-time champions Tampa Bay Lightning. Game 1 will be at the Ball Arena on Wednesday (8 PM ET; ESPN+, ABC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

Johnson reached the Cup Final for the first time in his 14-season career in the National Hockey League. The 34-year-old defending man is the longest serving member of Avalanche, returning to his arrival from the blues via trade on February 19, 2011.

His journey demonstrates the power of perseverance and the desire to win.

“It’s really hard to get here,” Johnson said. “Not everyone gets the chance to play in the Stanley Cup, so from that point of view I’m thankful and lucky to be here. It takes a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of good luck to get here.

“I’ve had many years here, some good, some bad, a lot of injuries. You know, when you go through some meltdowns, you never know what light will be at the end of the tunnel.

“Fortunately for me, I was able to go on and see this team go from worst to best and now hopefully I can finish it with the Stanley Cup.”

Johnson played for two general managers and three coaches during his 12 seasons in Colorado. He had over 170 teammates.

The avalanche sank the bottom of the NHL, and he finished second in 2012-13 and last in 2016-17. They rose to the top in the regular season, finishing third in 2019-20, first in 2020-21 and second this season.

Six times, they have missed the Stanley Cup playoffs. Twice, they lost in the first round. Three times, they lost in the second round.

[RELATED: Complete coverage of Stanley Cup Final]

Johnson played 654 regular season games and 42 avalanche playoffs. He ranked first in blocked shots in the regular season (1259) and elimination (80) in team history. He is the third in the regular season hits (1148), and the fourth in the playoffs (111).

You have caused huge losses. He fractured his teeth, broken foot, broken knee, torn knee ligaments, dislocated shoulders, dislocated fingers, sprained ankle and concussion. He’s had surgery on each shoulder, two surgeries on one knee, and two surgeries on his mouth.

Having missed all but four of last season’s games, he wasn’t sure if he would continue playing.

“I was kind of thinking to myself, ‘Do I really want to keep putting my body through all of this with everything I’ve been through? “Fortunately, I’ve been healthy this year, haven’t hurt, and it’s been a lot of fun to be there,” Johnson said. Being healthy helps a lot, not having things to deal with, so it was fine.”

Johnson played 77 regular season games and played in all 14 Colorado games in the playoffs, still sacrificing his body. He led the avalanche in blocked shots (136) and hit (165) in the regular season, the second in both block shots (22) and hit (54) in the playoffs.

“This is just my kind of DNA,” Johnson said. “I mean, if you can block a shot, you block it. If you’re going to hit someone, you’ll hit them. Don’t imagine being the leader of the franchise on blocking shots…”

He laughed.

“But sometimes that’s just the way the leaves fall,” he continued. “You don’t know how many chances you’ll have to win, you just have to do whatever you can.”

Johnson has evolved. Chosen by the No. 1 Blues in the 2006 NHL Draft, he was the number one avalanche defense man for years. Over time, he adapted to less attack, more defense and fewer minutes. He doesn’t have to be “the man” anymore.

He became a mentor to young defensemen like Bowen ByramAnd the Samuel Gerrard And the Cal Makar. He goes to dinner with them on the road and jokes with them in the locker room, because he does not want them to be intimidated by the older players and thinks that a relaxed and happy player is a productive player.

“He’s done a lot of work,” said the captain. Gabriel Landskog, the next longest-surviving member of the avalanche, who arrived in Colorado as a rookie in 2011-12. “He’s had some tough injuries the last few years. But he kept his head down and kept working.

“He was a role model and was a good guy for Cale, ‘Bo’, ‘G’ and all those guys who lean on him. He keeps the locker room light up, which always helps at this time of year when it can get a bit nerve-wracking in the evening. sometimes.

“Yeah, I know it means a lot to him, and he’s playing great for us.”

Too much is an understatement.

“You know, if you can crown this with the Stanley Cup where you started, that’s what you’ve always dreamed of,” Johnson said. “So we hope we can do that.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.