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Johnston lives for hockey… and science

25-year-old is wrapping up his Bachelor's degree in geology

by Joanie Godin, translated by Dan Braverman @CanadiensMTL /

MONTREAL - In every class in school, there's always that one little intellectual kid who lives and breathes science, whose interests can be a little unique. Such is the case in the Canadiens organization, too, as Ryan Johnston is passionate about… rocks. OK, it's really geology, but he does find himself intrigued by rocks he stumbles upon from time to time.

"If I see a rock that catches my eye, I could look a bit closer to identify some of the minerals," admitted Johnston, who only has a few courses left to complete his degree in geology at Colgate University. "I have a year left. I'm really a science guy, biology, chemistry.

"If I could've chosen anything, I would've studied biology, but the lab time interfered with my practice schedule, especially for chemistry and biology. If you're in a lab and you make a mistake three hours in, you'll have to start over again. You can't just continue, so I wouldn't have been able to do that because of practice and off-ice training."

In picking geology, Johnston - who suited up for seven games with the Canadiens as a call-up in 2016-17 - chose a field that was as close to a Bachelor of Science as possible, and one that he also happens to really like. The native of Sudbury, ON believes there are lots of different ways to put the degree to use - after his hockey career, of course.

"With that, you could do research on the earth, work on a boat, take samples of carrots, for example. But it could also depend on the type of geology, like marine geology, or just geology in general," explained Johnston, who registered 18 points, including five goals, in 50 games with the AHL's St. John's IceCaps last season. "I think I would lean more towards the business side of things. You could work in oil, in conservation, or just see what's under the earth, study it in general."

Some might wonder if a geologist might be considered something of a 'weirdo' in a hockey locker room.

"Haha, no! In fact, I'm pretty sure most of the guys aren't aware of my interest in it. One person might like guitar, another may be into science. Some of my friends at home are interested in what I'm studying and two of my teammates in university are also in geology, so I can talk to them about it," he elaborated. "We talk about the old days and it's classic, we'll talk about science all the time. (laughs)"

The human body is what piqued Johnston's interest in biology. When you get him talking about it, you can feel the enthusiasm emanating from his words.

"The human body has always fascinated me, especially when it becomes more specific with the conversion of energy and all those interesting things," enthused the 25-year-old. I was able to take a few bio courses. Nothing too crazy, but I like it in general."

An athletic family

Johnston has been able to make room for both his passions in also living out his hockey dream. And he's not the only one in the family to do the latter; his sister, Rebecca, is probably even more well-known than he is, or so he says.

"She won two Olympic gold medals with Team Canada, so I'm always known as 'the brother of,'" he reasoned.

The eldest of the group, Kathleen, played varsity soccer at Harvard, but stopped after her first year to pursue hockey. The next three, Sarah, Jacob and Rebecca, all went to play hockey at Cornell University, although Jacob switched to Dalhousie University after his first year. And the youngest, Steven, played a few games for the Gatineau Olympiques in the QMJHL, and is now also at Dalhousie.

"Our family is very close and that helped us push each other to be where we are today," Johnston revealed. "And that goes for both sports and our careers in general."

Looking elsewhere in the family, his uncle is the former head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins - Mike Johnston. It goes without saying that hockey is often discussed at family parties. There may also be the odd conversation about rocks and minerals, too.

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