by Patrick Hoffman on 12/31/10 at 11:00 AM ET
It is not everyday that you get to interview a former NHLer.
Luckily for me, I had the chance to do an e-mail interview with NHLer turned hockey analyst Mike Johnson. Johnson played in the NHL for 13 seasons with the Toronto Maple Leafs (4 1/2 seasons), Tampa Bay Lightning (1 1/2 seasons), (Just over 4 seasons), Montreal Canadiens (1 season), and the St. Louis Blues. He enjoyed his best season in in 2002-03 when he recorded 63 points (23 goals and 40 assists) with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Johnson is now a hockey analyst for the NHL Network, TSN, and NHL Home Ice and really does a terrific job for all three outlets.
Johnson was kind enough to take time out of his extremely hectic schedule to tell us about how he got into hockey, his NHL playing days, and what it is like to be behind the microphone covering hockey.
PH: How did you get into hockey?
MJ: I started hockey like most other kids in Canada. I learned how to skate on the lake at my cottage when I was 4 and 5, and I started playing in the local house league the first year that I was allowed, which was when I was 6. From there I just followed the natural progression through the years.
PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team/player? Why?
MJ: Growing up my favorite team was the Oilers, they were the best team and had so many stars and they were fun to watch. My favorite players were Wayne Gretzky, because he was the best player in the world, Paul Coffey, because I met him at a hockey camp when I was 7, and I liked the way he skated, and also Greg Terrion, a checking centre with the Leafs because he lived on the same street as me.
PH: At what point did you know that you wanted to be a professional hockey player?
MJ: My path to pro hockey was a little different than most. I stopped playing competitive hockey in high school and only started to play again in my last year of high school to try to get a scholarship. So it wasn’t until after my 2nd year at Bowling Green that I even considered playing pro hockey, and not until my senior season that I thought about playing in the NHL.
PH: What was it like to be a professional hockey player and have that as your job?
MJ: It was great playing hockey for my job, because it rarely felt like work. The chance to play a game everyday, and meet great people associated with hockey and also to have a chance to see all of North America and some of the world were great parts of playing. The were some days when things were not going well, either personally or professionally that were difficult, but those days were vastly outnumbered by the fun ones.
PH: Name some of your favorite moments you had as an NHLer.
MJ: My best individual moment was my first home game with the Leafs. I had just signed out of Bowling Green and I was playing in Maple Leaf Gardens, a rink that I had practiced in when I was 10, and I had over 50 family and friends at the rink to share the experience with.
My favorite team moment was the ‘99 playoff run with the Leafs when we made the conference finals. We were a very close team that had a lot of fun together, and we really energized the city.
PH: What was the transition like going from NHL player to NHL Broadcaster? What did you need to change when it came to how you watched hockey?
MJ: The transition to broadcasting was a fun challenge to take on. It was difficult to separate yourself from your former colleagues and be able to criticize them when I felt it was warranted. Also it was difficult to criticize players that are much players than I ever was.
Being in broadcasting also changed the way that I watched hockey, it forced me to concentrate on the entire game and also focus on why plays were happening, instead of just watching.
PH: Tell us about what it’s been like to work for TSN, the NHL Network, and XM NHL Home Ice? What have you learned while on the job? What have you learned about yourself during this experience?
MJ: It has been great to work at TSN, the NHL Network and XM radio. I am appreciative of the opportunities that I have had and enjoy all the different kinds of shows that I have done. One thing that I learned quickly was that, like all jobs, being a broadcaster takes a lot of work, and that I always want to be as prepared as I can, and that takes time.
PH: Tell us about how you prepare each night when you’re going on the air whether it’s TSN, the NHL Network or XM NHL Home Ice.As a former NHLer, I’m sure you’re used to spending a lot of time making you sure you are prepared and ready to go.
MJ: When I prepare for a show I try to cover all the bases. I read whatever I can on the net about the shows subjects, whether it is a team or an individual. I also make sure that I am I am familiar with all the relevant stats and if I am covering a specific team, I try to watch their previous games. All of these things take time, but I never want to go on air feeling unprepared.
PH: Do you have any words of advice for those who have dreams of playing in the National Hockey League?
MJ: My advice to any kid who dreams on playing in the NHL is to not be afraid to follow your dream and to do whatever you can to achieve it. At the same time I would encourage kids to not take hockey, or any sport, too seriously, too early. There is a lot of time to make hockey your life, but I don’t think you need to do that when you are 12 years old. Enjoy being a kid and enjoy doing other things besides playing hockey.
PH: Do you have anything else you’d like to share with readers of Kukla’s Korner?
MJ: I would like to wish all of Kukla’s Korner’s readers a happy and healthy new year, and keep on enjoying the unbelievable athletes that are playing in the NHL.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org.