The hockey world was rocked Sunday morning by the news that USA hockey executive Jim Johannson had died at the age of 53.
Johannson was USA Hockey's assistant executive director of hockey operations, but that was just one of his titles. He was the general manager of many of USA Hockey's men's national teams, including the national junior team that most recently won bronze at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo. He was also the general manager of the U.S. Men's Olympic Team and helped orchestrate the selection of a roster that for the first time since 1998 would not include National Hockey League players.
The news shook Buffalo Sabres coach Phil Housley, who learned of Johannson's death after practice and did not meet with the media before leaving with the team for Calgary.
It comes with a heavy heart hearing about the passing of my close friend JJ. One of the best leaders of @usahockey who grew our game to new heights! My thoughts and prayers are with his family and he will truly be missed, but his legacy will carry on. It’s a sad day for hockey!
— Phil Housley (@philhousley6) January 21, 2018
Johannson went outside the box to hire Housley, then a high school hockey coach, to lead the U.S. men's national junior team in the 2013 World Juniors. The Americans won the gold that year under Housley's guidance and the tournament helped kick-start his NHL coaching career.
Pegula Sports and Entertainment issued a statement on behalf of Terry and Kim Pegula and the Buffalo Sabres organization:
"When we heard of JJ's passing, we are reminded of what an enjoyable person he was to be around, and also what he meant to USA Hockey and hockey worldwide. We should all strive to do our jobs and treat people as JJ did. Jim Johannson, you have moved on, but you will not be forgotten. We will miss you."
We are devastated to announce that USA Hockey's Jim Johannson passed away early this morning. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his entire family. JJ will be greatly missed, but always remembered for his immensely positive impact both on & off the ice. https://t.co/dOHdw6WjwP pic.twitter.com/lJcHMAuEjY
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) January 21, 2018
We lost a true friend in Jim Johannson today.
He was so compassionate and as loyal a friend as you could have. He was the ultimate teammate.
I am deeply saddened and shocked and sorry that he is no longer with us.
He was a special human being. pic.twitter.com/vGAR4ZTFu2
— Coach Tony Granato (@TonyGranato) January 21, 2018
Scott Wilson has been a quiet addition to the Buffalo Sabres lineup, coming to the team from a trade with Detroit in December. In 14 games with the Sabres he has one goal and one assist.
Wilson played in the Pittsburgh organization, suiting up in 78 regular season and 20 playoff games for the Penguins in last season's run to the Stanley Cup.
So Wilson has been around a winning culture, which the 25-year-old forward described as taking care of the details.
"I think the biggest thing for me is just to try and get guys to understand, I'm not the most vocal guy, but try to get guys to understand it's about the little things that you gain your confidence through," Wilson said. "I think this group is lacking confidence obviously and a good way to build it is, I think, just doing the little things on the ice – finishing your checks and making the smart little plays. Once everybody gets on the same page with that, things will start rolling."
Wilson played on the fourth line for the Sabres in Saturday's loss to the Dallas Stars with Johan Larsson and Jordan Nolan.
In Sunday's practice, he was on a line with Ryan O'Reilly and Sam Reinhart.
The lines shifted as the Sabres practiced in HarborCenter Sunday morning.
Zemgus Girgensons was playing with Jack Eichel and Kyle Okposo. Evander Kane was with Larsson and Jason Pominville with Benoit Pouliot subbing in for Pominville during drills. Nolan was with Evan Rodrigues and Nicholas Baptiste with Jacob Josefson taking his turns in place of Baptiste.
Yes, Josefson was back at practice. So was defenseman Nathan Beaulieu who paired with Victor Antipin.
The rest of the defensive pairings remained the same. Marco Scandella and Rasmus Ristolainen were the top pair. Jake McCabe skated with Justin Falk and Josh Gorges was paired with Casey Nelson.
Story topics: Jim Johannson