Erik Johnson has begun solidifying himself as one of the premiere defensemen for the Colorado Avalanche. He's also outspoken, humerous, personable and will still play a mean game out on the ice.
We wanted to offer fans a glimpse at who Johnson really is so we made him the first in our ongoing mailbag series.
We recently asked for your questions for Johnson, and you responded via email, Facebook and Twitter (#JohnsonMailbag). We selected some of the best of them and had a sit-down with Johnson following practice Wednesday. Below are your questions and his answers.
EMAIL: “You're an athlete ambassador for animals, and I've heard you have several dogs and a horse. How did you become such an animal lover?
Rosa (Denver, Colorado)
ERIK JOHNSON: I have always loved animals. I remember when I was younger, we’d always take class field trips to farms and we’d get to see all the different horses, cows, cats, goats and stuff like that. Since I was a kid, I liked being around animals, and you know I’m kind of an advocate for them because they don’t have a voice. So you’re kind of their voice. I appreciate animals in general.
EMAIL: “EJ, with being from Minnesota and how the first round of playoffs went last season, do you have a different pregame ritual when you play the Wild versus your pregame ritual when you're playing other teams?”
Mackenzie (Suffolk, Virginia)
ERIK JOHNSON: No, it’s all the same. The only difference is I have to get more tickets and passes and kind of sort that out earlier before the game starts. But you treat it like any other game, and it’s what I’ve always done and it’s what I’ll always do.
ERIK JOHNSON: I haven’t thought about it because I’m focused on playing right now. That’s something I’ll think about when I retire, but I haven’t thought that far down the road. There’s always a possibility. ERIK JOHNSON: Definitely the 2010 Olympic Gold Medal Game, even though we lost in overtime. To win an Olympic medal is one of the greatest achievements anyone can have, and it was probably one of the biggest games most people have watched and one of the biggest that I’ve ever played in.
EMAIL: "How has having Adam Foote as one of your assistant coaches impacted your game?
Matt (Thunder Bay, Ontario)
ERIK JOHNSON: Good. André Tourigny and Foote are good resources for us to have. I played with Footie here in his last year in Colorado. So you kind of have a better relationship when you’ve played with a guy, and he’s been there and done that through it all. He’s a good resource for me, and a good resource for all the ‘D’. ERIK JOHNSON: Growing up, it was Pavel Bure. I was a big Russian Rocket fan. I liked to watch him play for the Canucks. I had a Joe Sakic jersey when I was a kid too. There’s a picture of my sister and me, in my Sakic jersey, when I was younger. So I liked Bure and Sakic. ERIK JOHNSON: I think I’m on a streak right now of about 45 days with no teeth in, and I prefer them out. It's just a little bit more comfortable, and if I have to go to some gathering I’ll throw the teeth in.
ERIK JOHNSON: Actually, that’s a funny story. My first year in mites I played goalie. I wanted to be a goalie, but my parents didn’t want me to be one. I loved playing goalie. My sister and I would always play roller hockey in the garage and I’d be goalie. We’d take turns doing that, so I almost became a goalie, but I decided… my parents decided that they wanted me to play out of the net.
ERIK JOHNSON: It was my under-18 year at the USA Hockey National Team Development Program at Ann Arbor, and all the numbers, 1 through 50, were on the board and everyone went up and put their name by the number they wanted. I was the last in the room and 6 was one of the last choices. I picked 6, and I’ve had it ever since.
EMAIL: “What was going through your head when you saved that empty netter against the Wild last year?
Don (San Diego, CA)
ERIK JOHNSON: You know, initially I thought I didn’t have a chance to get it, and I turned on the afterburners. The puck slowed down a little bit, and I was able to save it before it went in. I was lucky enough to catch up to it. It was nice to help the team get the win, and we scored right after that so it ended up being a pretty good, little turning point in the game.”.
ERIK JOHNSON: I kind of changed how I trained. I didn’t really lift as many heavy weights, I did a lot more plyos and just kind of maintained my body. I lost 12 pounds. I want to get a little bit lighter so I can play some bigger minutes and feel better on the ice, and so far so good.
ERIK JOHNSON: I’d probably say to be able to see the future. I think you could do a lot of good if you could tell what was going to happen ahead of time. It would be pretty interesting to see what things would happen down the road that you wouldn’t expect.
ERIK JOHNSON: Happy Gilmore. It's kind of a hockey movie. I like that. I like Slap Shot. I like a lot of them. I was a big Mighty Ducks fan growing up. I liked the first, second and third ones. I played with Paul Kariya, and I always gave him a hard time because he was in D3. I always like giving him a hard time about that. There’s a lot of good ones, and I watch them all.
ERIK JOHNSON: My favorite band right now… I like Bastille. It’s just a good, alternative band. They’re not too big right now. If you listen to their album, you know all their songs. I just really enjoy their music.
EMAIL: “I am 9 years old and am a defenseman on my hockey team. What advice do you have for a player learning this position?
Colin (Aurora, Colorado)
ERIK JOHNSON: I’d say focus on your skill set. You know, at that age your career wins and losses don’t really dictate the type of player you are going to be. I’d focus on becoming a better player. When you look back on those games, when you’re that age, they really don’t have an impact on what type of player you become. You’ve just got to work on getting better and don’t sweat the small stuff.
ERIK JOHNSON: I think you obviously want to build from the net out, and you know I always like more ice time. So I say Patrick Roy.
Alyssa Romeo, Ron Knabenbauer and Ryan Boulding contributed to this mailbag.