Updated 3x at 11:56 PM: Okay, I posted my audio from the Dylan Larkin-organized “Stars and Stripes Showdown,” and here are some initial articles regarding the event, with the first coming from the AP’s Larry Lage…
Dozens of U.S.-born NHL players paid tribute to Jim Johannson and raised funds for two of his favorite causes, his 2-year-old daughter and grassroots hockey.
Auston Matthews and Patrick Kane were among the American stars and standouts who gathered for a charity game won by the Blue over the White 14-9 Sunday.
“He was very good to me and my family,” said Matthews, who played for USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program before Toronto drafted him No. 1 overall in 2016. “He gave me an opportunity to play for USA Hockey.”
Detroit Red Wings center Dylan Larkin led the push to get many players in the league to travel, at their expense, to play an exhibition game in for 3,000-plus fans at USA Hockey Arena.
“Guys went about and beyond,” Larkin said. “All I had to do was send a couple texts.”
The event honored Johannson, who died at age 53 in January. He was a longtime USA Hockey executive and was serving as the U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team general manager when he died.
“It’s a great tribute to a great person we miss every day,” said Pat Kelleher, executive director of USA Hockey
And the second coming from the Detroit News’s Nolan Bianchi:
To see all these players out there and them giving back to the sport, giving back to the Johannson family, it’s a spectacular day for USA Hockey and for hockey in our country,” executive director of USA Hockey Pat Kelleher said. “That’s what made me smile today.”
The game featured 12 Michigan natives including Chicago Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat (Farmington Hills) and Winnipeg Jets defenseman Jacob Trouba (Rochester). Perennial NHL All-Stars Auston Matthews (Maple Leafs), Patrick Kane (Blackhawks) and Zach Parise (Wild) also played.
Larkin was accompanied by Red Wings Jimmy Howard, Luke Glendening, Justin Abdelkader and prospect Jake Chelios, son of Detroit legend Chris Chelios.
Larkin said he was happy to be the one to help recruit the biggest names in the sport in honor of the late Johannson.
“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.”
Kane captained Team Blue and Matthews Team White; they joined Johannson’s 2-year old daughter Ellie, wife Abby, father Ken, brother John and sister Judy for the ceremonial puck drop before the game following an emotional video tribute that Larkin said was a surreal experience.
“It’s a huge hole in a lot of people’s lives. All I could think about is, ‘There’s one person missing,'” Larkin said. “(Johannson would) be real proud if he knew what was going on today.”
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) August 26, 2018
And for the equipment nerds:
- Howard was back in his Vaughn pads after an entire summer of trying out Bauer 2S pads;
- And Dylan Larkin was trying out Warrior QR1 gloves with “shot blocker” protection on the backhands:
— Detroit Red Wings (@DetroitRedWings) August 26, 2018
Update: Here’s USA Hockey’s 4-and-a-half-minute highlight clip from the game:
Team Blue topped Team White, 14-9, at The Stars & Stripes Showdown, a benefit hockey game in memory of the late Jim Johannson featuring top American-born hockey stars, today in front of a sold-out crowd of 3,890 people at USA Hockey Arena.
“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.”
Dylan Larkin (2), Anders Lee, Cam Atkinson, Patrick Kane, Andrew Copp, Riley Barber, J.T. Compher, Jacob Trouba (2), Kyle Connor (2) and Luke Glendening (2) scored for Team Blue, while Zach Parise, Auston Matthews (2), Justin Abdelkader, Nick Foligno, (2) Brady Skjei, Connor Murphy, and Stefan Noesen put up goals for Team White. Jimmy Howard was in net and relieved by Dylan St. Cyr for the final two periods, while Craig Anderson started for Team White and swapped for Alex Nedeljkovic for the last two frames.
The game was benefitted both the Jim Johannson Legacy Fund of The USA Hockey Foundation, and the Ellie Johannson College Fund.
Johannson, who passed away unexpectedly at the age of 53 this past January, spent the past two decades as assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey. His positive impact on the sport in the United States was significant in many areas, particularly in the success of teams representing the U.S. on the international stage.
“I would like to thank everyone for coming to the game and for watching online,” said Dylan Larkin. “We need to do our part to continue JJ’s legacy and this was a fun way with our busy NHL schedules to do that. It won’t be the last time we do a game like this.”
In addition to the game, festivities included a live game-worn jersey auction; an online auction featuring game-worn jerseys and autographed NHL memorabilia; in-arena raffles; and a post-game meet & greet with players and coaches. To bid and view on auction items available, click here.
The Plymouth Observer’s Tim Smith also weighed in:
“Not hard, not hard,” said Larkin, about how challenging it was to get enough players to fill two teams. “Guys have busy summers, busy schedules, it’s a busy time of year right now with getting ready for training camp and the NHL season. It speaks volumes to the kind of person JJ was for all these guys to come out.”
The game was the focal point for Sunday’s gathering, but it was very much a Johannson celebration just the same.
Players on both teams wore uniforms with “JJ” prominent on the crest. A tribute video was shown before the ceremonial puck drop at center ice, where JJ’s wife Abby, 2-year-old daughter Ellie, father Ken, brother John and sister Judy were gathered.
For the actual puck drop, Ellie, in her mom’s arms, enthusiastically flung the puck several feet from the center ice dot — resulting in a warm-hearted reaction from the packed stands.
“It was amazing, an absolutely incredible outpouring of support for JJ,” said Abby Johannson during a postgame press conference, with a sleepy Ellie still in her arms. “The fact the players organized it made it even more meaningful.
“Such a special day and something I know he would have been very proud of, the guys for pulling this together and every… I think he’d be slightly embarrassed that it was him they were doing it for.”
Update #3: MLive’s Ansar Khan penned an event recap…
The Stars & Stripes Showdown wasn’t your ordinary exhibition. It honored Jim Johansson, a long-time USA Hockey executive who touched most of their lives in some way.
Johansson died unexpectedly at age 53 in January. He spent two decades as assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey. He had a profound affect on the sport in the U.S., as witnessed by the turnout at USA Hockey Arena that included stars such as Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews, Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, Seth Jones and a contingent of Detroit Red Wings – Dylan Larkin, Justin Abdelkader. Jimmy Howard and Luke Glendening.
The game benefited both the Jim Johannson Legacy Fund of The USA Hockey Foundation and the Ellie Johannson College Fund.
Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill, who stood behind the White Team bench, called it a great show.
“I hope in my life that I have an impact on people the way J.J. had an impact on people for all these players to show up,” Blashill said. “I don’t know if people understand what a big deal it is that elite-level players throughout the NHL 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.”
As did NHL.com’s Nicholas J. Cotsonika…
“Really emotional,” Red Wings center Dylan Larkin said. “A lot of people are still sad. It’s a huge hole in a lot of people’s lives, and all I could think about was, there’s one person missing. But I knew he was there at the game, and he’d be real proud of what’s going on today.”
Johansson, a two-time Olympian, joined USA Hockey in 2000 and rose to assistant executive director of hockey operations, overseeing everything from assembling national teams, to launching the American Development Model, to moving the NTDP from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to USA Hockey Arena in 2015. With a warm touch, he did whatever he could do give the players a good experience and grow the game in the United States.
“He was really the face of USA Hockey for the elite-level players,” USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher said.
The United States rallied around his memory at the 2018 IIHF World Championship. After each game and practice, the players and staff passed a hard hat to someone new to share a Johansson story. Larkin came up with the idea for a charity game, helped organize it with USA Hockey officials and recruited fellow NHL players. The last part wasn’t difficult.
“When you heard this game was happening, it’s a no-brainer,” Wild forward Zach Parise said. “Everyone out there, JJ had a huge impact on their career and their lives. It’s, ‘Tell me when and where the game is. I’ll be there. I’ll make sure we’re there.’ I think just the turnout of the players says a lot for the impact that he had.”
And DetroitRedWings.com’s Dana Wakiji weighed in…
Red Wings center Dylan Larkin was talking with John Johannson, USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher and a few others about a way to honor a man who meant so much to USA Hockey.
“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 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 everyone 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.”
All proceeds from the event benefit the Jim Johannson Legacy Fund and the Ellie Johannson College Fund.
While the Plymouth Observer’s Tim Smith talked with University of Notre Dame goaltender Dylan St. Cyr, who’s from Northville, regarding his big day in the spotlight:
What was the 5-9 Northville High School alum doing playing the final two periods of Sunday’s first annual Stars & Stripes Showdown at USA Hockey Arena in Plymouth?
“I was a late addition,” said St. Cyr, 19, who played two seasons for the U.S. National Team Development Program. “We had the (Warren) Strelow (goalie) camp here and Jimmy (Howard) asked me, so obviously I couldn’t turn that down.”
With that invitation to be part of the benefit game honoring legendary USA Hockey executive Jim Johannson, who passed away unexpectedly in January at age 53, the heartbeat started racing a little faster for St. Cyr. The game had been billed as a matchup of the top American players, and a number of NHL stalwarts participated.
“For sure, in our locker room looking to my left and right, Jimmy Howard and Patrick Kane just to name a couple key guys that were here,” St. Cyr noted. “But obviously, every one of these guys are NHL all-star caliber players. So it was pretty special, but definitely nerve-wracking.”