Last Sunday, a group of USA Hockey’s most talented players came together to honor the late Jim Johannson, assistant executive director of USA Hockey. The event was put together with the help of Dylan Larkin from the Detroit Red Wings, and organized to raise funds for the Ellie Johannson College Fund and the Jim Johannson Legacy Fund.
Johannson passed away unexpectedly in January, leaving behind a wife and young daughter. Months later, at the 2018 World Championships in Denmark, the idea for the charity game started to materialize. It all came together on August 26th, one of the final free weekends of the summer for NHL players, when they laced up their skates for a man who had done so much for USA Hockey during his life.
“As it got going, having Auston and Patrick Kane here is huge, Seth Jones, these guys flying in on their own expense, I can’t thank them enough for coming in,” Larkin said. “It really does speak to who JJ was.”
The game went off without a hitch. Nearly 40 of USA Hockey’s brightest and best, including Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews, Zach Parise, Seth Jones, James van Riesdyk, and many more, made their way to USA Hockey arena in Plymouth, Michigan, and faced-off in an all-star game of sorts. USA Hockey Arena was jam packed full of fans, selling out the 3,800 seat arena and adding more bodies in the standing room only sections.
Players participated in autographing sessions, game-worn jersey auctions, and other memorabilia auctions. While the final amount of money raised during the event will not be available until after the auctions end, it is clear that it was a tremendous success.
“This doesn’t happen in other sports. There’s no way. This is one of their last free weekends of the summer. They all paid their own way, they’re away from their families. They did this, essentially, to appreciate Jimmy, but also USA Hockey,” said his brother, John Johannson.
For fans wondering what’s next, there’s a real opportunity for this to become an annual event. With the support for Johannson, his wife and daughter, and USA Hockey, it’s clear that the players would like to continue to give back in whatever way they can.