Born: March 18, 1972
H.S. Class: 1990
|State Tourney Appearances||State Titles||Mr. Hockey||NHL Draft||Olympics|
|1988||None||1990 finalist||33rd overall (St. Louis, 1990)||1994|
Craig Johnson scored 137 points in three seasons at Hill-Murray. He was a sophomore in 1988 when the Pioneers reached the state championship game. Star Tribune file photo
Happiness for toddler-aged Craig Johnson was a folding chair and frozen lake.
Oh yeah, and a pair of skates.
Johnson might as well have been born wearing skates. He was the ripe old age of 3 when he stepped out of his footie pajamas and was strapped into his first pair of blades.
Johnson’s father, Dwight, would take him the five blocks from their family home in St. Paul to Lake Como. They would spend the day there. Many, many days there.
The pint-sized Johnson learned to skate as he pushed that chair for hours upon hours, stopping only for the occasional rest break.
Craig Johnson, left, played 10 seasons in the NHL, including parts of eight seasons with the Los Angeles Kings. Star Tribune file photo
“He pushed that chair all over,” Dwight Johnson said. “He would get tired, and I would put him in the chair. He always wanted to skate. All the other kids would want to go home after a while, but he never wanted to leave.”
Dwight Johnson insisted his son learn to skate before he played hockey. Conveniently, the Midway Skating Club made its home on Lake Como. The club’s impeccably groomed speedskating oval was an ideal place for a skating-obsessed kid to hone his skills.
By the time Johnson was in the third grade, his father made him choose between speedskating and hockey. “You can’t do both,” Dwight Johnson told his son.
Johnson chose hockey, but there remained a speedskating element to his game.
“He had great wheels,” said Pat Schafhauser, who graduated from Hill-Murray High School in 1989, a year ahead of Johnson. “He loved hockey. He was one of those kids you could just tell there was something different about them. There was something that makes them special.”
St. Paul’s Como Park neighborhood wasn’t routinely producing top-flight hockey players in the late 1980s, so Johnson was a bit of an unknown commodity when he showed up for Hill-Murray tryouts as a sophomore.
“He came out to the first practice and started skating around,” Schafhauser said. “Obviously the speed was easy to see. People took notice pretty quick. They were like, ‘I’m not sure who he is, but I’d sure like to get to know him.’ ”
Johnson scored 14 goals and added 20 assists in 28 games as a sophomore. His considerable presence helped give Hill-Murray the depth to push all the way to the 1988 state championship game. The Pioneers beat Rochester John Marshall 4-3 in the quarterfinals and downed Bloomington Jefferson 6-3 in the semifinals.
“My goal wasn’t to become an NHL player or become a Minnesota Gopher,” Johnson said. “I wanted to play in the state tournament. I grew up watching all those great players come before me. For me it was an honor.”
Edina beat Hill-Murray 5-3 in the title game. Johnson would score 52 and 51 points as a junior and senior, respectively, but he never again reached the tournament.
As a member of the U.S. national team, Craig Johnson (center) played in the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. Star Tribune file photo
Hill-Murray lost to White Bear Lake in two overtimes in the 1989 Section 3 semifinals. The Pioneers were upended by Park (Cottage Grove) in three overtimes the following year, again seeing their season end in the section semifinals.
Despite the disappointments, Johnson’s passion for hockey never waned.
“He came up with some things on the ice that coaches don’t teach,” Schafhauser said. “You could see what made him an outstanding player; he was creative and he loved to play.
“He wasn’t afraid to try some of those things he practiced on the ice in games. He was just fun to have him out there, really.”
One of five Mr. Hockey finalists in 1990, Johnson headed to the University of Minnesota after high school. He scored 42 goals in three seasons, leaving early to join the U.S. national team and play in the 1994 Olympics.
Johnson played 10 seasons in the NHL, appearing in 557 games. He retired from pro hockey in 2007 and lives in Irvine, Calif. He remains heavily involved in hockey, serving as the director of coaches for the Anaheim Junior Ducks.
Johnson said he and former NHL all-star defenseman Scott Niedermayer have joined forces to coach a Squirt-level team that includes one of Johnson’s two sons (they also have a daughter).
Craig Johnson lives in Irvine, Calif., and is the director of coaches for the Anaheim Junior Ducks.
That Squirt team was in Detroit for a tournament when Johnson gave his players a glimpse into his Minnesota childhood.
“We got eliminated in the semifinals of the tournament,” Johnson said. “The whole team went down to this local lake. They had it plowed off, and we started scrimmaging at 9 in the morning. We finally left at about 4 in the afternoon to catch our 7 o’clock flight.
“My son still talks about that tournament. He absolutely loved playing out on the lake. He wants to go back to Minnesota and play outdoors there.”
Father and son, sharing the same passion. What’s the expression? The puck doesn’t fall far from the hockey bag.
Of all Johnson’s memories, playing the Russians in the Olympics, playing in the Stanley Cup playoffs, you name it, those days on Lake Como were the best.
“I remember watching the fish through the ice,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t believe they didn’t freeze.
“That’s the thing I remember the most, playing outside.”
-- Loren Nelson, MN Hockey Hub editor
|Rank||Name||School||Grad.||Pos.||Born||Status||St. Titles||Mr. Hockey||College||Olym.||NHL|
|1||John Mayasich||Eveleth||1951||F||5/22/33||Retired||1948, 49, 50, 51||NA||Minnesota (1951-55)||1956, 1960||-|
|2||Neal Broten||Roseau||1978||F||11/29/59||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1978-81)||1980||1,099 gms; four teams; 80-97|
|3||Phil Housley||South St. Paul||1982||D||3/9/64||Retired||-||NA||-||2002||1,495 gms; eight teams; 82-03|
|4||Tim Sheehy||International Falls||1966||F||9/3/48||Retired||1964, 65, 66||NA||Boston College (1967-70)||1972||27 gms; DET, HAR; 77-80|
|5||Henry Boucha||Warroad||1969||D||6/1/51||Retired||-||NA||-||1972||247 gms; four teams; 71-77|
|6||Mike Antonovich||Greenway||1969||F||10/18/51||Retired||1967, 68||NA||Minnesota (1969-72)||-||87 gms; three teams; 75-84|
|7||Willard Ikola||Eveleth||1950||G||7/28/32||Retired||1948, 49, 50||NA||Michigan (1951-54)||1956||-|
|8||Mike Crowley||Bloomington Jefferson||1994||D||7/4/75||Retired||1992, 93, 94||1994||Minnesota (1994-97)||-||67 gms; ANA; 97-01|
|9||Dave Spehar||Duluth East||1996||F||11/7/77||Retired||1995||1996||Minnesota (1996-00)||-||-|
|10||John Matchefts||Eveleth||1949||F||6/18/31||Retired||1948, 49||NA||Michigan (1950-53)||1956||-|
|11||Kyle Rau||Eden Prairie||2011||F||10/24/92||Active||2009, 11||2011||Minnesota (2011- present)||-||-|
|12||Aaron Broten||Roseau||1979||F||11/14/60||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1979-81)||-||748 gms; six teams; 80-92|
|13||Craig Norwich||Edina East||1974||D||12/15/55||Retired||1974||NA||Wisconsin (1974-77)||-||104 gms; three teams; 79-81|
|14||John Pohl||Red Wing||1998||F||6/29/79||Retired||1997 (Class 1A)||1998||Minnesota (1998-02)||-||115 gms; StL, TOR; 03-08|
|15||Gary Sargent||Bemidji||1972||D||2/8/54||Retired||-||NA||Bemidji State (1972-73)||-||402 gms; LAK, MIN; 75-83|
|16||Bob Krieger||Edina||1970||F||10/5/52||Retired||1969||NA||Denver (1970-74)||-||-|
|18||Bill Nyrop||Edina||1970||D||7/23/52||Deceased||1969||NA||Notre Dame (1970-74)||-||207 gms; MON, MIN; 75-82|
|19||Tom Chorske||Minneapolis Southwest||1985||F||9/18/66||Retired||-||1985||Minnesota (1985-89)||-||596 gms; seven teams; 89-00|
|20||Steve "Pokey" Trachsel||Duluth Cathedral||1969||D||4/16/51||Retired||1966, 67, 68, 69 (Catholic)||NA||Minnesota-Duluth (1969-73)||-||-|
|21||Scott Bloom||Burnsville||1986||F||2/6/68||Retired||1985, 86||1986 finalist||Minnesota (1986-90)||-||-|
|22||Phil Hoene||Duluth Cathedral||1967||F||3/15/49||Retired||1965, 66, 67 (Catholic)||NA||Minnesota-Duluth (1968-71)||-||37 gms; LAK; 72-75|
|23||Corey Millen||Cloquet||1982||F||4/29/64||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1982-87)||1984, 1988||335 gms; five teams; 89-97|
|24||Reed Larson||Minneapolis Roosevelt||1974||D||7/30/56||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1974-77)||-||904 gms; six teams; 76-90|
|25||Bob Young||Hill||1971||D||3/1/53||Retired||1970 (Indep.)||NA||Denver (1971-75)||-||-|
|26||Brad Shelstad||Minneapolis Southwest||1970||G||9/14/52||Retired||1970||NA||Minnesota (1970-74)||-||-|
|27||Mike Ramsey||Minneapolis Roosevelt||1978||D||12/3/60||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1978-79)||1980||1,070 gms; three teams; 80-97|
|28||Matt Cullen||Moorhead||1995||F||11/2/76||Active||-||1995 finalist||St. Cloud State (1995-97)||-||966 gms; five teams; 98- present|
|29||Bill Baker||Grand Rapids||1975||D||11/29/56||Retired||1975||NA||Minnesota (1975-79)||1980||143 gms; four teams; 80-83|
|30||Paul Martin||Elk River||2000||D||3/5/81||Active||-||2000||Minnesota (2000-03)||2006||487 gms; NJ, PIT; 03- present|
|31||Wally Grant||Eveleth||1945||F||12/8/27||Retired||1945||NA||Michigan (1945-46, 47-50)||-||-|
|32||Brian Bonin||White Bear Lake||1992||F||11/28/73||Retired||-||1992||Minnesota (1992-96)||-||12 gms; PIT, MIN; 98-00|
|33||Larry Olimb||Warroad||1988||D||8/11/69||Retired||-||1988||Minnesota (1988-92)||-||-|
|34||Dave Langevin||Hill-Murray||1972||D||5/15/54||Retired||1970, 72 (Indep.)||NA||Minnesota-Duluth (1972-76)||-||513 gms; three teams; 79-87|
|35||Joe Bianchi||Bloomington Jefferson||1994||F||8/17/75||Retired||1992, 93, 94||1994 finalist||Wisconsin (1994-98)||-||-|
|36||Peter Fichuk||International Falls||1965||F||4/8/47||Retired||1964, 65||NA||Minnesota (1966-69)||-||-|
|37||Jon Casey||Grand Rapids||1980||G||8/29/62||Retired||1980||NA||North Dakota (1980-84)||425 gms; three teams; 83-87|
|38||Doug Woog||South St. Paul||1962||F||1/26/44||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1963-66)||-||-|
|39||Darby Hendrickson||Richfield||1991||F||8/28/72||Retired||-||1991||Minnesota (1991-93)||1994||518 gms; five teams; 94-04|
|40||Paul Ranheim||Edina||1984||F||1/25/66||Retired||1984||NA||Wisconsin (1984-88)||-||1,013 gms; five teams; 88-03|
|41||Steve Christoff||Richfield||1976||F||1/23/58||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1976-79)||1980||248 gms; three teams; 79-84|
|42||T.J. Oshie||Warroad||2005||F||12/23/86||Active||2003, 2005 (Class 1A)||2005 finalist||North Dakota (2005-08)||-||184 gms; StL; 08- present|
|43||Scott Lecy||Rochester John Marshall||1977||F||4/8/59||Retired||1977||NA||Wisconsin (1977-81)||-||-|
|44||Scott Bjugstad||Irondale||1979||F||6/2/61||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1979-83)||1984||317 gms; three teams; 83-92|
|45||Mike "Lefty" Curran||International Falls||1962||G||4/14/1944||Retired||1962||NA||North Dakota (1965-68)||1972||-|
|46||Joe Micheletti||Hibbing||1973||F||10/24/54||Retired||1973||NA||Minnesota (1973-77)||-||158 gms; StL, COL; 79-82|
|47||Rob McClanahan||Mounds View||1976||F||1/9/58||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1976-79)||1980||224 gms; three teams; 80-84|
|48||Nick Leddy||Eden Prairie||2009||D||3/20/91||Active||2009||2009||Minnesota (2009-10)||-||46 gms; CHI; 10- present|
|49||Tom Pederson||Bloomington Jefferson||1988||D||1/14/70||Retired||-||1988 finalist||Minnesota (1988-91)||-||240 gms; SJ, TOR; 92-97|
|50||Dave Christian||Warroad||1977||F||5/12/59||Retired||-||NA||North Dakota (1977-79)||1980||1,009 gms; five teams; 80-94|
|51||Jay North||Bloomington Jefferson||1980||F||6/26/62||Retired||-||NA||Harvard (1980-84)||-||-|
|52||Paul Johnson||Breck||1953||F||5/18/36||Retired||-||NA||-||1960, 1964||-|
|53||Pete Waselovich||International Falls||1973||G||11/15/54||Retired||1972||NA||North Dakota (1973-77)||-||-|
|54||Tom Kurvers||Bloomington Jefferson||1980||D||9/14/62||Retired||-||NA||UM-Duluth (1980-84)||-||659 gms; seven teams; 84-95|
|55||Mark Osiecki||Burnsville||1986||D||7/23/68||Retired||1985, 86||-||Wisconsin (1997-90)||-||93 gms; four teams; 91-93|
|56||Mark Pavelich||Eveleth||1976||F||2/28/58||Retired||-||NA||UM-Duluth (1976-79)||1980||355 gms; three teams; 81-92|
|57||Mark Parrish||Bloomington Jefferson||1995||F||2/2/77||Active||1994||1995 finalist||St. Cloud State (1995-97)||2006||722 gms; seven teams; 98- present|
|58||Bryan "Butsy" Erickson||Roseau||1978||F||3/7/60||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1979-83)||-||351 gms; four teams; 83-94|
|59||Roger Christian||Warroad||1956||F||12/1/35||Deceased||-||NA||-||1960, 1964||-|
|60||Bill Christian||Warroad||1956||F||1/28/38||Retired||-||NA||-||1960, 1964||-|
|61||Trent Klatt||Osseo||1989||F||1/30/72||Retired||-||1989||Minnesota (1989-92)||-||782 gms; five teams; 91-04|
|62||Erik Rasmussen||St. Louis Park||1995||F/D||3/28/77||Retired||-||1995||Minnesota (1995-97)||-||545 gms; three teams; 97-07|
|63||Robb Stauber||Duluth Denfeld||1986||G||11/25/67||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1986-89)||-||62 gms; LAK, BUF; 89-95|
|64||Joe Dziedzic||Minneapolis Edison||1990||F||12/18/71||Retired||-||1990||Minnesota (1990-94)||-||130 gms; PIT, PHX; 95-99|
|65||Ryan McDonagh||Cretin- Derham Hall||2007||D||6/13/89||Active||2006||2007||Wisconsin (2007-10)||-||40 gms; NYR; 10- present|
|66||Craig Johnson||Hill-Murray||1990||F||3/18/72||Retired||-||1990 finalist||Minnesota (1990-93)||1994||557 gms; five teams; 94-04|
|67||Matt Hendricks||Blaine||2000||F||6/17/81||Active||2000||2000 finalist||St. Cloud State (2000-04)||-||137 gms; COL, WSH; 08- present|
|68||Wally Chapman||Edina||1982||F||7/6/64||Retired||1982||NA||Minnesota (1982-86)||-||-|
|69||Bob Paradise||Cretin||1962||D||4/22/44||Retired||-||NA||Saint Mary's (1962-66)||1968||368 gms; four teams; 71-79|
|70||Ben Hanowski||Little Falls||2009||F||10/18/90||Active||-||2009 finalist||St. Cloud State (2009- present)||-||-|
|71||Damian Rhodes||Richfield||1987||G||5/28/69||Retired||-||NA||Michigan Tech (1987-90)||-||309 gms; three teams; 90-02|
|72||Eric Strobel||Rochester Mayo||1976||F||6/5/58||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1976-79)||1980||-|
|73||Dick Dougherty||International Falls||1950||F||8/5/32||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1951-54)||1956||-|
|74||Gino Guyer||Greenway||2002||F||10/14/83||Active||-||2002||Minnesota (2002-06)||-||-|
|75||Jim Amidon||International Falls||1963||F||2/18/45||Retired||1962||NA||Colorado College (1964-67)||-||-|
|76||Karl Goehring||Apple Valley||1996||G||8/23/78||Retired||1996||NA||North Dakota (1997-01)||-||-|
|77||Rube Bjorkman||Roseau||1947||F||2/27/29||Retired||1946||NA||Minnesota (1948-51)||1948, 1952||-|
|78||Tony Bianchi||Bloomington Jefferson||1989||F||12/15/70||Retired||1989||-||Minnesota (1991-94)||-||-|
|79||Oscar Mahle||International Falls||1957||F||8/22/39||Deceased||1957||NA||Minnesota (1959-61)||-||-|
|80||Mike Randolph||Duluth Cathedral||1970||F||11/5/51||Retired||1967, 68, 69 (Catholic)||NA||-||-||-|
|81||Aaron Ness||Roseau||2008||D||5/18/90||Active||2007||2008||Minnesota (2008-11)||-||-|
|82||Doug Palazzari||Eveleth||1970||F||11/3/52||Retired||-||NA||Colorado College (1970-74)||-||108 gms; StL; 74-79|
|83||Nick Checco||Bloomington Jefferson||1993||F||11/18/74||Retired||1992, 93||1993||Minnesota (1993-97)||-||-|
|84||John Rothstein||Grand Rapids||1975||F||10/28/56||Retired||1975||NA||UM-Duluth (1975-79)||-||-|
|85||Gary Wood||International Falls||1965||D||9/28/46||Deceased||1964, 65||NA||-||-||-|
|86||Al Hangsleben||Warroad||1971||D||2/22/53||Retired||-||NA||North Dakota (1971-74)||-||185 gms; three teams; 79-82|
|87||Doug Peltier||St. Paul Johnson||1968||F||6/29/50||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1969-72)||-||-|
|88||Mike Lauen||Edina East||1979||F||2/6/61||Retired||1978, 79||NA||Michigan Tech (1979-83)||-||4 gms; WIN; 83-84|
|90||Tom Gorowsky||Centennial||2004||F||4/8/86||Retired||2004||2004||Wisconsin (2005-09)||-||-|
|91||Jack McCartan||St. Paul Marshall||1953||G||8/5/35||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1955-58)||1960||12 gms; NYR; 59-61|
|92||Doug Zmolek||Roch. John Marshall||1989||D||11/3/70||Retired||-||1989 finalist||Minnesota (1989-92)||-||467 gms; four teams; 92-00|
|93||Pete LoPresti||Eveleth||1972||G||5/23/54||Retired||-||NA||Denver (1972-74)||-||175 gms; MIN, EDM; 74-81|
|94||Terry Abram||South St. Paul||1965||D||2/14/47||Retired||-||NA||North Dakota (1966-69)||-||-|
|95||Bill "Buzz" Schneider||Babbitt||1972||F/D||9/14/54||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1972-75)||1976, 1980||-|
|96||David Backes||Spring Lake Park||2002||F||5/1/84||Active||-||2002 finalist||Minnesota State (2003-06)||2010||364 gms; StL; 06-11|
|97||Don Ross||Roseau||1960||F||10/11/42||Retired||1958, 59||NA||North Dakota (1961-65)||1964, 1968||-|
|98||Mike Polich||Hibbing||1971||F||12/19/52||Retired||-||NA||Minnesota (1971-75)||-||226 gms; MON, MIN; 76-81|
|99||Chris Locker||Duluth East||1996||F||10/14/77||Retired||1995||-||UW-River Falls (1999-2000)||-||-|
|100||Herb Brooks||St. Paul Johnson||1955||F||8/5/37||Deceased||1955||NA||Minnesota (1955-59)||1964, 1968||-|