January 31st, 2008... Experiencing everything at the 2008 NHL All-Star Weekend in Atlanta and participating in the YoungStars game was amazing.
An interesting note about the Western Conference YoungStars team was that 4 of the 8 players attended the same high school. Erik Johnson, Patrick Kane, Peter Mueller, and myself all went to Ann Arbor Pioneer. I don't know how many times one high school can claim half a team in an NHL event!
The amount of media and fans was unreal and I ended up doing interviews for the Los Angeles Kings, the Detroit Red Wings since I'm from Michigan, and the media at the YoungStars Media Day. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper wrote a story about the passion of the fans at All-Star Weekend. The whole weekend is an event that is not only about hockey, but also about connecting with the fans and giving them experiences they'll remember.
March 20th Update: Unfortunately my season is over after I broke my foot last game. We're looking to get the site up to date and hopefully come back even better next season!
January 6th, 2008... Christmas in Los Angeles is a lot different than Michigan. I'm not used to sun and sand in December, but I'll learn to adjust. My family came into town to help celebrate, so that was nice. A family tradition in our house is to have a mini-stick tournament on Christmas. The semifinals consisted of me vs. my dad and my little brother Kenny vs. my mom. True to form, the kids won and I faced Kenny in the finals. It was a tough battle with us going to Game 7 and Kenny pulling out the victory. The first photo below is us wrestling at the end. Like I said, one major change is getting to hang out on the beach in the winter. I am reading a book called "Playing for Pizza" by John Grisham. It's a good book about a football player who ends up going to Italy to play just for fun. Sometimes it's nice to just play and not worry about all the business stuff. It's important for me to read and keep being a student since I'm still taking classes at Michigan. I'm off the 4-year plan now, but I promised my parents I would graduate someday. Speaking of Michigan, there was a pretty big bowl game on New Year's Day and I have to say it was great to be a Michigan Wolverine when they beat #9 ranked Florida 41-35 in the Capital One Bowl. The Johnson Family are huge college football fans and it was absolutely awesome. My little brother got into the act a few times by showing off his Maize and Blue. Later on, I was out on the beach throwing the football with J-S Aubin and attempting to do my best Chad Henne impression, although I don't think I could throw for 373 yards. I definitely had bragging rights for Michigan that day though. Now, bragging rights for the World Junior Championships is another story. USA was undefeated in the round robin part of the tournament, but lost to Canada in the semi finals and lost to Russia in the third place game. Of course, Canada won their 4th gold in a row and the Canadians have bragging rights. I can't wait until Team USA claims it again.
Another fun experience during the holidays is getting to see Kenny play hockey out here. He's playing for a team called the Anaheim Wildcats while he is staying out here. I'm trying to get to as many practices and games as I can since I don't get to see him play much anymore. It's fun to be in the locker room and lace up his skates like the old days. I hung out with a lot of his new teammates, signed autographs, took photos, and just tried to give them advice on playing hockey. The whole team ended up coming to my game against the Chicago Blackhawks (which we won 9-2), so it's a cool experience to see the support go both ways.
Over the holidays, I had the opportunity to meet a young fan named Desmond Feher-Hill. He came all the way from Hamilton, Ontario, to watch me play (and visit family) and the Toronto Star wrote a story about him. He has been a fan of mine since I played for the University of Michigan. He is a tough little kid who works hard and never gives up. He's just 9 years old, but plays on a hockey team with all 10 year olds. The big thing is that he also has cerebral palsy and is still one of the best players on his team. It was great to spend time with him and see how much he just loves playing hockey. The holidays are a great time for being with family and I was lucky enough to spend it with mine. It's tough living so far away now, but we're making it work and I cherish all the memories we keep making.
I got some pretty exciting news and found out I have been selected to participate in the YoungStars skills event as part of the 2008 NHL All-Star Weekend in Atlanta. I'm really flattered and can't wait to represent the Kings on this national stage.
December 20th, 2007... It was such a thrill last night to play at Joe Louis Arena and against the Red Wings. Growing up, I had random practices and games there, especially when I went to Michigan and the CCHA. My dad used to work for the Wings when I was younger, so after they were done practicing I would skate with some of the players. It's amazing to think that a few years ago I was a little kid trying to skate around them and now I'm in the NHL playing against them.
The whole experience of going back to Michigan was great. It started the night before when my dad picked me up from the hotel to take me home. First order of business when I got there was playing a game of mini-sticks with my little brother Kenny. I could barely get my coat and tie off before he was down on the ground trying to get a cheap goal in early. I miss having those little games each night. It's tough not hanging out with him every day, but I try to make each time we spend together fun and memorable. It was also great to have a home-cooked meal from my mom. I definitely miss that.
My little brother Kenny doing one of his crazy faces. I miss the random stuff he does.
My dad took me back to the hotel and I tried to get a good sleep. At our game-day skate the next morning, my brother's whole '98 Victory Honda team came to watch. It was nice to have my brother get to see what I'm up to now although he was probably having more fun running around an empty arena with his friends. Afterwards, they stuck around and got autographs from the Kings. Guys like Blake, Thornton, and Cammalleri were great talking to them all and signing everything. I think Kenny's team enjoyed the game-day skate and was happy enough with just that, but I ended up buying tickets for them all to come to the game later that night and they were definitely excited.
It was a privilege to play at the Joe in front of so many family and friends. I couldn't believe how many people had come to see me play. There were people from my elementary school, my old teammates from the Development Program and Michigan, just old friends and family, and even my pediatrician! I had a lot of support from so many people and I can't thank them enough. Without them over the years, I would not be where I am today. Thanks to all of those who have supported me throughout the years and hopefully we'll come out with the win next time we're in Detroit.
We know there will be brighter days ahead and we're giving our best effort on the ice. The vets have definitely been great to me this year, especially Blake with everything he has done on and off the ice for me. Nobody is giving up and we look forward to turning the corner and playing better hockey.
Next stop is Columbus and as an Ann Arbor-native and former Wolverine, I definitely am not looking forward to going to that city. Go Blue! Go Kings!
December 11th, 2007... I'm settling in during my first year in the NHL. I always expect more out of myself and am never satisfied, but so far I think things are going well. I'm still just 20 years old and adjusting to a lot of new experiences. I moved out of Rob Blake's house after I bought my own place. This is the first time I have lived on my own, but things are going pretty well. I still look to Rob for advice and try to pick his brain all the time about hockey.
I can't believe we are a third of the way through the season already. We have to focus and capitalize on all of our chances and can't give away points. I hear all the time that we are looking at the future since we have such a young core group of guys, but I want to compete now and will never quit. I still think we can make a push to get back into the playoff race. Each game is a new learning experience and helps us get better and prepare for the future.
NHL.com wrote an article about me that you can check out here. Despite being a rookie, it's nice to know my teammates count on me to contribute. We're playing in Detroit soon and I'm sure it will be fun to have a lot of family and friends watching me play in the NHL. Throughout college I played at the Joe, and although I've had a lot people visit and watch me play in LA, I can't wait to play "at home" in front of everyone.
November 29th, 2007... Ooops, it has been a month, but I am new to this and will try to update on a more regular basis. Anyway, the season is a quarter of the way through and we have some things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, but we also have a few things to improve on. We have a pretty good young core of players and I think we're getting used to playing with each other. I'm excited for the future, but definitely want to be successful now. We have an important stretch of games coming up against Western Conference teams and you never want to give away points.
My old team, the University of Michigan Wolverines, are playing great so far this season. They are on a 12-game winning streak and ranked #1 in the nation. They're another young team - with 12 freshmen - but have two solid seniors in Kevin Porter and Chad Kolarik to learn from. I'm proud of them and hope they can bring another national championship to Ann Arbor. Good luck boys!
October 25th, 2007... Well, we are back in LA for a few home games in a row. We're going to be playing the Edmonton Oilers soon and it should be pretty fun facing my former teammate and housemate Andrew Cogliano. It's pretty cool that we lived across the hall from each other and were playing college hockey together just a few months ago and now we're going to be playing against each other in the NHL! He's playing really well and I want to see him succeed in this league, but I hope I do my job better when we play and keep him off the scoresheet.
October 20th, 2007... Finally. Not that I've been waiting too long (less than 15 career games), but it's nice to get it out of the way. I scored my first goal off a great pass from Kyle Calder last night. It was in Vancouver, where I have a bit of history, so it's nice to make a little noise there again. Every game I feel more and more comfortable out there. I'm focused on my defense, but it's nice to contribute on the offensive end, especially when we get a victory.
We're heading back home after this Western Canada 2-game stint with 4 home games. Hopefully we can keep the momentum going and notch a few more wins. ESPN did an article on Rob Blake and me called Blake giving rookie Johnson an NHL education. It's about him being a mentor and helping me through my rookie season. Anyway, hope you like it and I hope to see you at the Staples Center!
On a side note, I want to thank all of my fans for your support and understanding throughout my career. I'm still a rookie and just getting my feet wet in this league. I wish I could sign autographs for everyone after games or on the road, but it's a business and I'm not in charge. Being one of the youngest guys on the team, I don't want to be the last one on the bus and make all the veterans wait. I'm sorry to anyone I may have offended, but I really do appreciate all the support and signs that I see at different rinks throughout the league and at the Staples Center. Thanks again and hopefully I'll see you around soon!
October 11th, 2007... The 2007-08 season has begun. We had our home opener October 6th against the St. Louis Blues. My parents came into town, so it was nice to see them after the long trip to Europe.
We traveled to Dallas to play the Stars on October 10th. We ended up losing the game, but I tallied my first NHL point with an assist on Kyle Calder's goal. It's nice to get my first assist out of the way, but I would rather get the 'W' for the team.
We're heading back to LA for 3 games before going on the road in Western Canada. Things are looking good and I'm really excited to see our team develop together.
September 29th, 2007... We opened the NHL's 2007-08 Season in London against the Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks. It was the first time the NHL has ever played in Europe, so it was cool to be a part of history. We got a late start due to some trouble with the lights, but everything else seemed to go our way. The crowd was amazing with over 17000 fans. You'd look up into the stands and there were jerseys from all different NHL teams. We won 4-1 with a great team effort.
September 27th, 2007... With rookie and main camp over, we traveled to Europe to play a few games. It's always fun to travel overseas. I've played in a lot of tournaments over here, most recently the World Championships in Russia. We went to Salzburg, Austria to play in the Red Bull Salute Invitational Tournament. Salzburg's a cool city with a lot of history. There's a giant chess board in the middle of town that gets a pretty big crowd watching and there is a huge castle that looks over the city. It's also the site where the "Sound of Music" was filmed, so it's a major tourist attraction.
In our first game, we played EC Red Bulls Salzburg and were down 3-0 not even 4 minutes into the game. Not really the start we wanted. We rallied though and won 7-6. The next game we found ourselves trailing again, 2-0 in the second period, to Farjestads BK. We rallied again and won 4-3. Anze Kopitar was great during the tournament, being named MVP and scoring the game-winning goal in the championship with less than a minute to go. The regular season is just a couple days away as we open up with two games against the Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks in London. I'm excited to get the 2007-08 season underway.
I just wanted to give a shout out to my little brother Kenny. While I've been over here in Europe, he played in his first AAA tournament. He even scored in the shootout as his team won the tournament. You can check out the video here. Wish I could've been there buddy! Miss you and great job! I'm so proud of you.
I'm excited for the season to start and to get back to LA and play in front of the home crowd. I bet you guys are excited too! Get ready for an exciting year.
September 3rd, 2007... The season is just around the corner and I'm back in LA trying to get ready. We just started rookie camp, so it was good to get back on the ice with my teammates. I spent most of the summer preparing for the coming season both on and off the ice. I can't believe that the Frozen Fury is just a few weeks away and then we start the season in London! It's going to be a pretty exciting rookie season and I can't wait. Check back throughout the season as I keep you updated on my rookie year.
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