This family vacation turned out better than expected.
Initially, Karen and Terry Johnson were supposed to be entertained by their pro hockey-playing son Chad in the New England area over the AHL all-star break. Chad, a goalie with the Portland (Maine) Pirates, knows the area well. Before he switched to the Pirates this season, he played for the Connecticut Whale in Hartford.
But the Johnsons' plans were altered when Chad was promoted to the Phoenix Coyotes last Thursday after Mike Smith suffered a lower-body injury. So instead, Karen and Terry flew from Calgary to the desert in the hopes of seeing their son get another shot in the NHL.
The 26-year-old Johnson had not played in the NHL since March 31, 2011, when he relieved Henrik Lundqvist for the final period of the New York Rangers 6-2 loss to the rival New York Islanders.
Johnson got the call on Monday and he rewarded his new team with a 21-save shutout, his first in seven career NHL appearances, in the Coyotes' 4-0 win at home against the Nashville Predators. The performance has earned him the start against the visiting Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday.
"It worked out really well," Johnson said in a phone interview. "My twin brother [Curtis] just happened to be down in the Phoenix area visiting some friends, too. Everyone was excited and it was nice to share the shutout with my family."
Usually, after a game the only text messages waiting for Johnson are from his girlfriend Alexandra or the occasional one from his parents. But this time his voice mailbox was full and he had too many texts and e-mails to return.
'I was overwhelmed'
"I was overwhelmed," Johnson said. "So many people were supportive and happy for me. It just shows you the NHL is different territory."
Time will tell whether Johnson can turn this opportunity into a more permanent NHL gig this season or down the road. Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said that Smith could be ready to return to action on the weekend.
Johnson got into goaltending because when he and Curtis played road hockey as kids on the cul-de-sac in front of their Deer Ridge Place home in the Southeast Calgary neighbourhood, "one of us had to go into the net, so I strapped on the pads."
His bond with goaltending only strengthened. He played for the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League with his brother, who now runs CuJo Conditioning in Lloydminster, Alta.
Chad wound up with a scholarship to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. The Pittsburgh Penguins drafted him in the fifth round in 2006, and three years later they traded him to the New York Rangers for a fifth-round selection after he put up an incredible .940 save percentage in his senior season and was a Hobey Baker finalist.
His longest stint as Lundqvist's backup was for six weeks midway through the 2009-10 season. With so little opportunity in the Rangers system, he signed a one-year deal with the Coyotes last summer. He also was intrigued working with Coyotes goalie coach Sean Burke.
Johnson had been playing some of his best hockey with Portland this year. He was 14-8-0 with a .912 save percentage before being called up by the Coyotes.
"The only thing I can control is when I play," he said. "I've gotten off to a good start and now I just want to help my team win."
This humble approach doesn't exactly exude the arrogance of his NFL namesake Chad (Ochocinco) Johnson. But some of his teammates have called him Ochocinco in the past anyway.
"It's starting to fade away now," Johnson said with a chuckle. "Early on, when he changed his name to Ochocinco a lot of my teammates called me that. It was a good nickname."
Do you have improvements to suggest for this page?