By @MichaelCaples –
PLYMOUTH – Almost every day, there are elite hockey players skating on the ice at USA Hockey Arena.
On Sunday, however, the talent on the ice rivaled that of an NHL All-Star Game.
Hockey fans from Metro Detroit and wherever else they traveled in from – there were plenty of Canadian license plates in the parking lot – were treated to a remarkable hockey game at the inaugural Stars and Stripes Showdown game, a memorial event for the late Jim Johannson.
A collection of hockey stars, assembled by Michigan’s own Dylan Larkin, took part in a charity contest to raise money for the Jim Johannson Legacy Fund and the Ellie Johannson College Fund at the home of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.
“It was a great tribute to a great person,” said Pat Kelleher, executive director to USA Hockey. “To see all those players out there and give back to the sport and to the Johannson family makes today spectacular day for USA Hockey and for hockey in our country.”
The Legacy Fund was established to “support the continued efforts of growing, developing and strengthening American hockey players through initiatives such as player development of our National Junior Team, National Team, National Team Development Program and Olympic Teams.” The College Fund, meanwhile, is to support the daughter of Johannson, after he passed away on Jan. 21 at the age of 53.
“At Worlds – after the bronze, came up with the idea, talking with John Jonansson and Pat Kelleher and a couple of guys, we really did rally around JJ at Worlds and we wanted to bring a gold medal for him and I know he would be so proud of that group,” Larkin said after the game. “After every game we had a hard hat and we shared it after every game or every practice we gave it a new guy. It wasn’t supposed to be this way but everything shared their story about JJ and how they met him or if they didn’t know him, something that he’s done for them. Everyone has a different story. If someone didn’t know him or knew him and was best friends with him, just to hear how much he did for anyone, he’d give the shirt off his back for anyone.
‘The idea came up and we really rallied around him and the idea came about just in my head. I thought it would be a great idea, a fun way for myself, with our busy NHL schedule we weren’t able to make it to the funeral. So this is a great way for us to do what we love to do and raise money for his family and his foundation.”
Patrick Kane, Austin Matthews, Zach Parise, Seth Jones, Nick Foligno and James van Riemsdyk were just some of the U.S. hockey stars who showed up in support of Johannson’s family and friends.
The State of Michigan was well-represented on the rosters, as well, as the following natives and familiar faces were skating Sunday afternoon:
- Alex Nedeljkovic
- Jake Chelios
- Justin Abdelkader
- Alex DeBrincat
- Stefan Noesen
- Connor Hellebuyck (did not dress)
- Dylan St. Cyr
- Quinn Hughes
- Cam Fowler
- Patrick Sieloff
- Jacob Trouba
- Riley Barber
- J.T. Compher
- Kyle Connor
- Andrew Copp
- Luke Glendening
- Dylan Larkin
- Kevin Porter
- Jimmy Howard
Jeff Blashill served as one of the coaches for event at the sold-out USA Hockey Arena, as did John Hynes, David Quinn and Tony Granato.
After a ceremonial puck drop with the Johannson family, the players put on a highlight-reel of a hockey game during the friendly contest.
Other festivities at USA Hockey Arena included a live game-worn jersey auction, an online auction featuring game-worn jerseys and autographed NHL memorabilia, in-arena raffles and more.
“I’ve thought about this lots over the last couple of days. I hope in my life that I have an impact on people the way JJ had an impact on people for all these players to show up. I don’t know if people understand what a big deal it is that elite-level players throughout the NHL came back, elite-level U.S. players came back to honor him. That doesn’t happen very often. You can talk about it and say you’re going to do it but for it actually to come to fruition, this speaks to the impact he had on people. He was an unbelievable human being. When you were around him, you felt good about yourself. I just thought it was a great tribute to him.”
For the record, Team Blue beat Team White 14-9 in front of 3,890 hockey fans at USA Hockey Arena Sunday afternoon. Larkin, Trouba, Connor and Glendening all had two-goal outings; save percentages and goals-against averages for the goalies need not be mentioned in the defense-optional affair.
Stay tuned for more from USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth…