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Jack Johnson's trip to Vancouver a family affair

by John Kreiser
Jack Johnson is one proud hockey dad.

Not only is his son Jack a member of the Los Angeles Kings and a member of the United States Olympic Team, but the whole Johnson family will be in Vancouver on Friday to see Jack march in the Opening Ceremonies at the Winter Olympics.

"We're very excited," the elder Johnson told from Los Angeles, where Jack and the Kings are hosting the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night. "We're kind of bouncing off the walls."

NHL players began to participate in the Winter Olympics in 1998. But because the League schedule overlaps the start of the Games, marching in the Opening Ceremonies hasn't been an option.

But this year, because the Games are being played in Vancouver and will open on an off-day for the Kings, Johnson got permission to skip Friday's practice and will get a chance to march with the rest of the United States Olympic Team before flying back to L.A. for Saturday's game against Colorado. He'll be back in Vancouver again on Sunday to prepare for the Americans' opening game against Switzerland on Tuesday.

Johnson is expected to be the only member of Team USA to march in the Opening Ceremonies, and USA Hockey says he'll be the first U.S.-born player on an NHL roster at the time of the Games to do so.

"It's going to be unbelievable," Jack Sr. said. "We never expected that he'd be the only one. He wouldn't have missed this for anything, and we're fortunate that the schedule worked out the way it did. As my wife said, we're going to move heaven and earth to make this happen.

"We're all still in a little bit of a state of awe about this whole thing."

The Johnson family -- Jack, his parents and 11-year-old brother -- will be trading some sleep for the trip to the Opening Ceremonies. They're scheduled to depart Los Angeles at 6 a.m. for a flight to Bellingham, Wash., via private plane, then drive the rest of the way to Vancouver, where Jack will go to the Olympic Village.

Johnson will march in the Ceremonies, then be driven back to Bellingham for a late-night flight to L.A. -- getting him home in time for a few hours' of sleep before the morning skate prior to Saturday night's game.

It's a trade-off the whole family is ecstatic to get the chance to make.

"We're thrilled," Jack Sr. said. "It will be a short night -- we'll be up at 6 a.m., and on to the Opening Ceremonies, and then back to L.A. tomorrow night. He plays Saturday against Colorado, and then it's a 7 a.m. flight to Vancouver for the actual Olympics.

"But he's young -- he can do it. We might all be dying on the vine, but so what; it's not about us. It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing."

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