BROSSARD - Like the rest of the hockey world, captain Max Pacioretty was in complete shock when he learned of the sudden passing of Jim Johannson on Sunday.
Johannson, the assistant executive director of USA Hockey and the general manager of the 2018 U.S. Olympic men's ice hockey team, passed away in his sleep at his home in Colorado Springs. He was just 53 years old.
"I couldn't believe it when I saw it. Jim was such a big part of USA Hockey. He was definitely the glue that held everything together," said Pacioretty. "He'll be greatly missed. He was a great man who everyone had such positive things to say about. When I heard, I thought back to my memories with USA Hockey. He was a big part of why they were memorable moments for me."
Some of Pacioretty's fondest moments with Johannson were actually over the phone, when Johannson called to let him know that he'd be sporting the stars and strips on the international stage.
"He was always the guy that told you about the selection. Right there, it starts off with good memories telling you that you made the team. As soon as you saw his number on your phone, you got excited. I was ecstatic every time," said Pacioretty, who has represented his country on four occasions over the years - at the World Juniors in 2008, the World Championships in 2012, the Winter Olympics in 2014, and the World Cup of Hockey in 2016. "He was a huge part of the selection process and he always believed in me."
Once on-site at an event, Pacioretty recalls Johannson doing all he could to make sure that the American contingent had everything it needed to be successful.
"Everything he was doing at the event was trying to accommodate the players and make sure that we had the best circumstances and setup possible. Whether it was World Juniors, World Championships, or the Olympics, he treated everyone the same way," explained Pacioretty. "That was to get the best players and people involved in USA Hockey, and he was at the head of the ship."
Pacioretty, who last saw Johannson in person at a University of Michigan hockey game last season, believes Johannson's legacy at USA Hockey will undoubtedly live on forever.
"He worked so hard. He was always scouting, always doing what he could to take care of the players. His hard work was second to none," concluded Pacioretty. "He made Team USA run smoothly. I'm sure everyone learned a great deal from him."
The Canadiens will honor Johannson's memory during Tuesday night's game against the Colorado Avalanche at the Bell Centre.