"On the Fly" is a new regular feature on DallasStars.com. Senior digital correspondent Scott Burnside sits down with a member of the Stars for a few random, off-the-cuff questions to gain insight into their lives, thoughts and careers on and off the ice.
Today's edition features proud Pennsylvanian and four-year member of Notre Dame's Division I hockey team, defenseman Stephen Johns.
Previous installments: Jason Spezza | Jamie Benn
Scott Burnside: Growing up in a blue collar family, do you think that marked who you were in terms of your personality?
Stephen Johns: One-hundred percent. Hockey's an expensive sport, and there was a time there where we contemplated stopping just because we didn't know if it was in the best interests of the family. I think that always had me play with a chip on my shoulder because I had to go above and beyond to work for everything I got. That's kind of the attitude that my dad instilled in me. It doesn't matter what people say about you or what they think, it's how you work and if you do the right things and you work hard, everything works out in the end. Obviously, I had a tough time last year, but if I didn't have my family and friends back home, I don't think I'd be here today.
I was like 12 years old (when the family talked about stopping hockey) and it was during that year my brother had some big-time medical issues, so that put a blip on the radar for everyone, and then my dad (Ray) got laid off. It was the same year that we went to the nationals in Alaska. We went there (and) I had a crazy-good tournament. From then on, it was kind of like, well, I can do something with this game. My No. 1 goal since I was 12 years old was to go to college -- to play college hockey, to get a full scholarship, and once I earned that, then everything was just a bonus from there. I think my whole approach was my parents have spent so much money and time and dedication to put me in this position, all I want to give them back in return is for them not having to pay for me to go to college. Everything after that -- signing pro contract, getting drafted -- that's just a bonus. Hopefully, the bonus keeps coming. My dad and I have a very different relationship. The first 22 years of my life, we butted heads pretty good. Once you get older -- I'm turning 26 (on April 18) -- kind of realized that everything he's told me since I was growing up, everything's he said that pissed me off, he was probably right. I think he knows how much I appreciate him and how much he means to me. We don't say like 'thank you' verbally, but he knows. And I know.
Video: DAL@BOS: Johns fires wrist shot past Khudobin
SB: What was the most memorable hockey gift you received or purchased growing up?
SJ: My first Nike stick, for sure, because Mario (Lemieux) used it. I think Mario was the first one to introduce Nike to hockey and then, he was using it. So that was the big Christmas gift that year. I was, don't even know, maybe 7 or 8. (But the stick was never used in a game.) Oh, no. No. No. No. I still have it somewhere. It's still in my parents' house somewhere up in the attic. Yellow, black and gold -- that's why it was even better.
SB: What is the best advice you would give an 18-year-old Stephen Johns?
SJ: Slow down. I think I've always had the tendency to try and ramp things up to a higher pace, and sometimes, it forces a lot of issues. And I think once you slow everything down, everything kind of fits into place and you can work from there. Obviously, with experience, with anything, you're going to get more comfortable. But I think, this year, I've really tried to slow everything down, whether I used to be a crazy driver, and now, I drive on the highway and go the speed limit and don't really care if people pass me. I just slowed everything down and just started enjoying everything and taking everything as it comes, and not taking anything for granted.
SB: How did you mark your first NHL contract?
SJ: I bought a house after my first stint in the NHL, so I've had that house for two years now. Nothing crazy. I didn't buy a big truck or anything big -- car, nothing crazy, nothing too flashy. I bought a house back in my hometown (Ellwood City, Pa.) next door to my brother (Raymond). We share about eight or nine acres of land with a big pond and creek that goes through it. It's dog heaven, pretty much. It's out in the country. ... It's perfect. He's got two boys that are 6 and 3, so I get to see them every day in the summer, which is great. I miss their whole childhood until the summer, so I try to see as much of them as I can. My dog's Chief -- big, lovable yellow lab, and my brother's got a lab, too. He sells steel, he works in a steel mill. He's on the business side, though. My dad's in the actual (mill). He's actually working; he's doing all the stuff.
Video: BUF@DAL: Johns buries a wrister from the hashmarks
SB: What was the worst injury you've suffered or seen someone else suffer?
SJ: My teammate broke his femur when we were younger; just kind of like a hip check. He was tall and lanky and just got a hip check. That wasn't fun. Other than that, I got a skate right here (Johns holds up his left hand and wrist). That was kind of scary. I didn't even feel it. I took off my glove to grab a drink and my hand was just blood. The main scar's here, but it cut from here all the way down there (he points from wrist across top of his hand). Just straight skin, just got lucky. I have no idea (how it happened) because I didn't even feel it. I literally took my glove off, figure I'll be drinking, my hand was just covered in blood. I was like, 'Holy (cow).' I had it stitched because it was only like from here it was like a little cut, and then it got deep here and they just put four stitches right here. Frozen Four, 2011 -- first year (in college).
This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. You can follow Scott on Twitter at @OvertimeScottB, and listen to his Burnside Chats podcast here.