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State of Hockey Ambassadors: Doug Johnson

by Roger Godin / Minnesota Wild
In this series of interviews for, we sat down with those who have made a difference in the State of Hockey. These people have either been ambassadors to the sport in Minnesota or pioneers in making the game front and center in our state. Without them, and many like them, this simply could not be the State of Hockey.

Where were you born and raised and how did you get into hockey?

South Minneapolis, born and raised, came up through youth hockey and played defense for Roosevelt High School. We went to state in my senior year 1974. What’s your most memorable youth and/or high school hockey game? Playing in the state tournament and losing our first game to Grand Rapids in overtime. It was the start of their dynasty. (Doug was a teammate of future Gopher and NHL player Reid Larson and picked up an assist in this game.)

What was your college career like at St. Thomas?

Played four years in college and  we finished third in the NAIA National Tournament in 1978. The tourney was played at the Coliseum in Saint Paul and we were definitely not expected to finish that high. It was better than anyone expected.

How did you happen to go to the North Stars camp?

That was the year they merged with Cleveland. It was 1978 and they had an open tryout for 100 players at Met Center. From there they signed three guys and I was one of them. I went to the main camp and they assigned me to Johnstown of the North eastern Hockey League.

What was your pro career like?

Played in Johnstown for one year. The next year I went to North Stars training camp again and was assigned to the Eastern Hockey League, but this time to Baltimore. The coach there was Gene Ubriaco. That same year, I played some at Oklahoma City, the Stars’ top farm team. Their coach was Ted Hampson. My third training camp I played well for Baltimore in an exhibition game against Oklahoma City, getting two goals. Two days later I was told I was going back to Baltimore when I felt I should have been assigned to Oklahoma City. That was when I decided it was time to move on to something else because I was finished with those 10-hour bus trips.

How did you happen to buy Let’s Play Hockey?

That first year not playing pro I helped coach at St. Thomas. For the next four years I worked in the financial industry, first as a controller and second as an investment advisor. I was thinking I’d like to get into the sports industry, perhaps starting a sports publication. After much investigation, I think it was Dave Wright [Former Let’s Play Hockey editor], who suggested talking to Bob Utecht who might be interested in selling his publication. After one meeting on the golf course at River Falls the deal was done. I took over with the October 1986 issue. Then in early 1987 we started Let’s Play Softball, and that publications is now in its 20th year and we’ve added baseball coverage. That same year we started the Let’s Play Hockey Expo which continues today.

What’s been your most rewarding experience owning the paper?

I would say that being able to publish the youth hockey stories that give the players, their parents and grandparents, the joy of seeing their names in print.

What’s the most overriding issue facing the sport in Minnesota?

The cost of the sport is the number one challenge for hockey today. There are many factors included in the cost of the playing the sport. We are always trying to find ways to help the sport grow.
If you were Minnesota Hockey Czar what’s the one thing you’d change?

I would eliminate or at least reduce the administrative paperwork in amateur hockey. We need to worry less about attorneys and more about the ease of getting players into the sport and keeping them involved.

How do you see the sport developing further in the state over the next 10 years?

Obviously the NHL is the top of the mountain and following behind that is college hockey. Both are important to the success of the sport in the state. I think high school hockey is also equally important. I’m currently the Boys’ coach at Minnehaha Academy and I see high school hockey continuing to be the leader in providing opportunities for players to learn lifelong lessons, not only on the ice, but off. I think high school hockey will continue to grow and foster enthusiasm for the sport.

Continue Reading:

Bob Breau | Commissioner, Minnesota Junior Hockey League

Erik Johnson | Defenseman, St. Louis Blues

Doug Johnson | Editor, Let's Play Hockey

Doug Woog | Former Minnesota Gophers Head Coach

Bob Naegele, Jr. | Former Chairman, Minnesota Wild &
Norm Coleman | Former U.S. Senator and Mayor of Saint Paul

Laura Halldorson | Former Gopher's Women's Coach

Phil Housley | Former NHL Player and High School Coach

Lou Nanne | Former NHL Player, Coach and General Manager

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