Home Is Where The Trade Takes You

Erik Johnson Adjusting To Life In A New NHL City
By: 
Jessi Pierce

 

Packing your belongings and heading to the unfamiliar surroundings of a new city is a common occurrence in the life of a typical 22-year-old.

But when you're the face of an NHL franchise and suddenly find yourself on the move to another team, the shock only compounds the uncertainty.

As the first overall pick by the St. Louis Blues in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Erik Johnson felt that he was a fixture in St. Louis on a par with the Gateway Arch.

"I really didn't expect [a trade], but I guess anything can happen," said Johnson, who was the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade on Feb. 19 that involved Johnson and teammate Jay McClement heading to Colorado in exchange for Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart.

Such is the life in the NHL, especially as the trade deadline approaches.

"Ultimately, it's a business and I got traded to a good place in Colorado," Johnson said. "It's a great city and there is a great future with this young team. I'm excited to be a part of it now"

Immediately after hearing the news, Johnson said good-bye to his teammates hours after a game in Buffalo, and boarded a flight to San Jose, where he met up with his new team.

As a scheduling would have it, Johnson's next game put him back in St. Louis, only this time he found himself in the visitor's locker room.

"it was fun to go back [to St. Louis], especially just three days after the trade," said Johnson who tallied his first goal in burgundy, blue, and white in a 4-3 victory for Colorado.

"To make it better, we got the win, which was nice. And I got the goal, which was very nice. Any time you get to beat your old team and score a goal against them is a pretty good feeling."

Leaving home is nothing new for the Bloomington, Minn., native who spent two years with the National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich., and teaming up again with fellow Bloomington, Minn., natives and NTDP alumni Ryan Stoa and Peter Mueller helped soften the blow of being traded so late in the season.

"Anytime you get to play with guys you know in the show is great," said Johnson, who was also roommates with Paul Stastny during Team USA's silver-medal run in Vancouver a year ago.

"To be able to represent your country with Stastny was a huge honor and a great honor for me, and to be back with Stoa [who played at the University of Minnesota with Johnson] is pretty neat, too."

For the time being Johnson is leaning on his friends and teammates to find his way around Denver as he plays out the rest of the season. While the Avs are high on their new defensemen, Johnson is cautious about setting his roots too deep in the Colorado soil.

"There's a lot of nice areas to live in [Denver]," he said. "It's just a matter of finding a place that will give me a short monthy rental, not knowing what could happen a few months from now in this business."

And whether it's in the Gateway City or at Mile High City, Johnson won't lose sight of the fact that he still has a roster spot with a young team with a bright future.

"I've been able to be in the right place at the right time, and with the help of the right coaching and hard work, have found myself here," he said.

"There's still a lot of work to be done, but it goes to show that you can accomplish anything if you work hard enough for it. No matter what team I am on, the opportunity for me to be where I am has meant it all, and I wouldn't change a thing."

 

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