We’re back for another season of the Colorado Avalanche Mailbag, where players respond to fan questions. This installment features Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson
As always, your questions are in bold. If we feel the need to provide some additional commentary or clarification, it will come in italics before the player gives his answer.
Now, on to the Q&A:
Hi Erik, I am 17 years old and just started ice skating in February. I’ve played roller hockey before but it’s not the same. I was wondering what advice you could give me to become an ice hockey defenseman? Matthew, St. Louis, MO
I strongly encourage focusing on skating, work with a power skate instructor if you can. As far as developing hockey skills, find time to work on stick-handling, shooting and weight training.
I have a question about goaltender communication. Foote and Roy were famously good friends and road roomies during their careers in Colorado, with Foote often referred to as Roy’s “bodyguard.” What kind of relationship have you developed with Varly and Jiggy since they’ve arrived and how much does the language barrier affect your on-ice communication? Jake, Denver, CO
The communication’s been great so far. The communication on the ice is pretty easy, not too many different things you need to say to them. They’re such good goalies they know what they’re doing. Communication as a whole is very important.
I was just wondering what’s the coolest thing you like about Denver so far? And what’s the funnest thing you’ve done outside of hockey-related activities around town? Jordon, Littleton, CO
Going up to Vail. I love all the activities you can do up in the mountains. Love the outdoors. Vail has been my favorite spot so far.
Did you have to go through any kind of initiation phase as a rookie in St. Louis before playing any game? How about in CO? Did the boys pull any pranks or make you do anything before playing with the Avs? If so, would you be willing to tell us anything? Laurie, Loveland, CO
As a rookie on the first few road trips in St. Louis, I’d be napping and Keith Tkachuk would come around and mess with us and not let us sleep. It was all in good fun. First game of preseason I had to skate a lap by myself around the ice before any of the boys came out. Pretty harmless stuff.
With the retirement of Adam Foote and the trading of John Michael Liles, do you feel Colorado’s defense is strong enough to take you guys to the playoffs this year? David, Colorado Springs, CO
Obviously those guys were good players and will be missed. But the guys we have are definitely a group that can carry us to the playoffs. We’re a lot tougher to play against and can match up against some of the bigger teams in the West very well.
Late last season, Avalanche fans on Twitter nicknamed you “Yeti.” Avs fans have given nicknames to different players throughout the years, such as “Radar” for Ryan O’Reilly and “Dutchy” for Matt Duchene. What is your favorite nickname that anyone has ever given you, and what do you think about the new one? Justin, Ottawa, ON
I wasn’t aware of the new nickname. The first nickname I was given as a rookie was by Dan Hinote. He named me 'edge'. And it just stuck the rest of my days in St. Louis.
Being a high draft pick yourself, what kind of advice do you have for players like Gabriel Landeskog about dealing with the pressure and expectations? Malu, Honolulu, HI
Since I’ve roomed with him on the road, we’ve had more time to talk. Things I’ve mentioned to him are don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You don’t have to do it by yourself, you have your teammates to help you through everything. He’s a mature player with a lot of skill and he’s wise beyond his years.
Is it true that your uncle Gary taught you everything you know about the game of hockey? Gary, Bloomington, MN
Haha. Absolutely not. (joking) No influence whatsoever.