LOS ANGELES, Calif. - When hockey fans think back to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, the first thing they remember is Sidney Crosby's Golden Goal. It was 10 years ago today that Crosby scored the overtime winning goal to give Canada a 3-2 victory against the United States in the Gold Medal Game.
And while Crosby's goal is a moment that will live forever as a pinnacle moment in hockey history, when one member of Team USA looks back on those Games something different comes to mind.
Even though he played in the game and saw the Golden Goal live, when Jack Johnson thinks back to those Games, what he remembers most is being the first American NHL player in Winter Olympics history to walk in the Opening Ceremony.
"Just being able to walk out with the entire USA team and being able to stand with the best athletes in the United States, realizing that you're a part of that, it's pretty humbling," said Johnson, whose team lost to Canada on Crosby's overtime goal in the Gold Medal Game. "Probably the coolest experience I've ever had in my life."
After being named to the U.S. Olympic men's hockey team on Jan. 1, 2010, Johnson looked at the NHL and Olympic schedules and realized the stars had aligned.
Vancouver was hosting the Games, and the Opening Ceremony was set to be held at BC Place Stadium on Friday, Feb. 12 - which wasn't terribly far from Los Angeles, where he was playing for the Kings at the time.
"It was a practice day for us and I asked the organization if they'd allow me to go to that, and they were very accommodating," the now 33-year-old defenseman said. "They understood and they thought it was a cool opportunity for me. I was really appreciative of that."
Johnson paid his own way to make it there, starting with chartering a flight to Washington state on Friday morning after the Kings hosted the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night. From there, a driver took him the rest of the way across the border to Vancouver, where he made it in time for the festivities - which began at 6 p.m. PST.
"It all worked out. It wasn't too far away," Johnson said. "It's not like I had to fly to China or something."
American designer Ralph Lauren has designed Team USA's opening ceremony outfits since 2008. For the 2010 Winter Games, the athletes wore navy puffer jackets with red trim along with white pants.
"We had an opening ceremony outfit and a closing ceremony outfit," Johnson said before adding with a laugh, "They were pretty wild. I don't know if it's something I would wear in my everyday life, but they were cool. I still have them."
While Johnson was the only NHL player who made it to Vancouver, he certainly wasn't alone. Decked out in red, white and blue, Johnson walked alongside snowboarder Shaun White.
"I remember walking in and I was next to Shaun White and he was a really cool guy," Johnson said. "I got to talk to him, Vice President Joe Biden, tons of other athletes. There was just an immense amount of respect for everyone that played every other sport."
Johnson then sat in the stands with members of the U.S. speedskating team for the duration of the event, which lasted about four hours. When it finished, Johnson got right back in the car and headed straight back to Los Angeles in time for the Kings' game against Colorado on Saturday night.
"It was all well worth it," he said. "I viewed it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. You never know when you're going to get a chance to do something like that again. It was something I really cherish."