After being left off the U.S. squad that competed in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, Jack Johnson is back where he belongs, wearing the red, white and blue for Team USA at the World Cup of Hockey. On the eve of skating in his 11th international tournament, the Indianapolis native talks about the pride he has in representing his country.
What are your thoughts heading into this World Cup of Hockey?
Whenever you get to represent your country in a tournament like this is special. It could be your last time so you cherish every moment and make sure it counts. When you're younger I think you do cherish every minute of it, but as you get older it means more and more every time.
Much has been made of the fact that you were not on the team that competed in Sochi in 2014 after helping the U.S. win a silver medal in 2010. How excited were you when you received the call from (Team USA general manager) Dean Lombardi that you would be on this squad?
I went through the whole spectrum of emotions. I am just extremely honored and proud to be back. I say the same thing when I'm asked but you never know when the last time is, so when you get another chance you really cherish it and want to make it count.
From your perspective, what's it been like to see the growth of USA Hockey from your time at the National Team Development Program until now?
When I first started, the '96 World Cup team was the one that I grew up watching and that's when I really took notice of international hockey. That inspired me to want to be a part of that next group. From when I started, my age group has had a lot of success internationally. Over the last 10 years, we've won medals at almost every tournament we've been to. When we go into a tournament we expect to win. That's a huge development for USA Hockey.
What role did college hockey play in your development as a player and a person?
When I think about my time at the University of Michigan it was two of the best years of my life. I wouldn't trade that for anything. I got to play with some really good players, and against some really good players, including some guys who are on this team. I think one of the biggest things about college hockey is the development off the ice. You grow up off the ice. You live in a house and pay rent and all those things, you're on your own. The training and the facilities are top notch, getting to play at a major university with the strength and conditioning coaches, the nutritionists, the facilities, everything like that were all second to none. I look back on it and realize how lucky I am.
Each generation has had their signature moment when it comes to international success. Is there pressure on this group to have your signature moment at World Cup?
I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves because we want to do that for the next generation. You're wearing the same colors that they wore and carrying on that same legacy so we want to cement our own place in history just like they did. We know there's little kids watching us, just like we did with them. We don't want to let them down. Anyone who's watching this tournament, even if they don't know anything about hockey, we don't want to let them down.