Warren County Memories book 20 Under 40

U.S. hockey hero's son getting his chance at Phantoms camp

2011-09-28T01:53:00Z 2011-09-28T02:05:55Z U.S. hockey hero's son getting his chance at Phantoms campBy TIM McMANUS -- tmcmanus@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
September 28, 2011 1:53 am  • 

GLENS FALLS -- Sometime this week, Patrick Johnson will pack up the few belongings he has here and make a nearly 600-mile journey to Wheeling, W. Va.

The trip is plenty long as is, but before he begins, Johnson hopes to make a two-hour detour in the wrong direction up the Northway.

Lake Placid would be a top destination for any hockey fan, but for the Johnson family, the place means just a little more.

Patrick's father Mark starred on the U.S. Olympic team that pulled off the famed Miracle On Ice in 1980. Patrick has never visited the tiny Adirondack village where the magic happened.

Johnson is signed to play with the Wheeling Nailers in the ECHL this season, but is spending the week in camp with the Adirondack Phantoms. It's not right next door to Lake Placid, but...

"That's all right, it's close enough," Patrick said.

Johnson, a rookie forward out of Wisconsin, is one of seven players in Phantoms camp on a tryout basis. Phantoms coach Joe Paterson said several of those players would get a chance to play Wednesday night when Adirondack opens its preseason at Weibel Arena in Saratoga Springs against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

Considering Johnson centered a line with Eric Wellwood and Stefan Legein in Tuesday's practice, it seems he has a decent shot of being in the lineup.

"If you get an opportunity you have to run with it," Johnson said.

When Johnson does make his professional debut, it will be the fulfillment of a destiny that's seemed certain since he learned to skate at 2 while his dad played professionally in Austria. The family's hockey pedigree goes deep.

Johnson's grandfather is "Badger Bob" Johnson, who coached Wisconsin to three NCAA championships in 16 years. Bob Johnson also led the Pittsburgh Penguins to a Stanley Cup championship in 1991 before dying of cancer later that year at 60.

Johnson's background will sure to be well-known in Wheeling, which is firmly in Penguins' territory and affiliated with Pittsburgh.

While Johnson looks forward to playing in the organization he grew up rooting for, having such a powerful family history was once a source of pressure.

Being the grandson of a Wisconsin legend and the son of the guy whose goal forced the Soviets to pull the feared Vladislav Tretiak set the bar high for success in the Johnson household.

"It used to be bother me a lot because guys would give me crap about it on the ice," Johnson said. "(My dad) told me when I started high school, he said, ‘You know, you're not going to be the same player as me.' And it's true. You're not going to put up those numbers. You're not going to win the gold medal. So the pressure left."

Wisconsin - as if he'd consider playing elsewhere - was a natural fit. He played well enough to be a seventh-round draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2008.

Even better, he often saw his dad. Mark Johnson has coached the Wisconsin women's ice hockey team since 2002.

Mark Johnson coached the U.S. women's team to a gold medal in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Patrick had just one problem with that - the schedule conflicted with his own season.

"(Stinks)," Johnson said. "Only one in my family that didn't get to go."

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