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The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


USA Hockey was left with a gaping hole in its organization Sunday after general manager Jim Johannson, 53, died in his sleep Saturday night. The cause of death is still undetermined.

"Jim Johannson was USA Hockey to most of the world," USA Hockey's executive director Pat Kelleher said. "All the hockey federations in the world turned to Jimmy. The hole he left is so wide that it is hard to come to grips with."

Johannson, a native of Rochester, Minn., played four seasons at the University of Wisconsin, was a two-time Olympian and finished his pro playing career with the Milwaukee Admirals.

"We lost a true friend in Jim Johannson today," said Wisconsin and U.S. Olympic coach Tony Granato, who was a teammate at UW. "He was so compassionate and as loyal a friend as you could have. He was the ultimate teammate."

Johannson's title was assistant executive director of hockey operations, but his duties were overseeing the USA's national teams. He was general manager of the U.S. men's Olympic team that will compete next month in Korea.

"This Olympic team was going to be a testament to Jimmy because no one knew the depth our player pool better than he did," Kelleher said. "When we knew the pool wasn't going to be NHL players, he was the first to say 'We are going to have 25 unique stories of guys and these guys are damn good hockey players.'"

Those who knew Johannson will miss his personality as much as his expertise. He knew everyone in the sport. He knew American hockey history. And it seemed as if he had a story, memory or thought about every player he ever played with or against or had seen play.

"He could do almost anything for a team," said Keith Tkachuk, who played with Johannson on the 1992 Olympic team. "He had skill, but he was a responsible guy who you could put on the ice in the last minute of a game. He was a player you relied on."

Johannson and Tkachuk roomed together on the Olympic tour.

"I remember once Jimmy got so angry at us when we playing at Salt Lake," Tkachuk said. "(U.S. forward) Lane McDonald got hit hard and Jimmy lost it in the locker room. He said we should never let that happen to one of our top players, to someone who has done as much as Lane McDonald had.

"I was a young player and that had an impact. It helped me mold my game to be a stick-up-for-your-teammate kind of guy. That was 1991 and I still remember what Jimmy said."

Players in the Wisconsin-Notre Dame college game wore "JJ" decals on their helmets Sunday.

As a Badger, Johannson scored 63 goals, 67 assists and 130 points in 148 games played from 1982-'86. He was also a part of Wisconsin's 1983 NCAA championship team.

Johannson arrived at USA Hockey in 2000 after spending five years as the general manager of the Twin Cities Vulcans, who won the 2000 USA Hockey Junior A National Championship in Green Bay.

Johannson never played in the NHL. His 374 games in the International Hockey League included 99 for the Admirals from 1992-'94, when he registered 18 goals and 29 assists.

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January 22, 2018


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