Voodoos’ Johnson savouring World Jr. A Challenge opportunity

SUDBURY, Ont. – While Timmins Rock head coach Corey Beer is on board as an assistant coach, the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League also has another individual representing the NOJHL on the Team Canada East staff that will guide that team at the upcoming World Junior A Challenge, December 7-15, 2019, in Dawson Creek, B.C.

Back in July Powassan Voodoos head athletic trainer and equipment manager J.J. Johnson was selected by the Canadian Junior Hockey League and Hockey Canada to serve as equipment manager for Canada East at the international event in northern British Columbia.

Gearing up for his third campaign with Powassan in the NOJHL, Johnson has earned the opportunity to represent Canada on the international stage for the first time.

Earning back-to-back league all-star nods in both 2017 and 2018 at the trainer/equipment manager position, Johnson was also named the Northern Ontario Hockey Association’s Dr. Tom Pashby Trainer of the Year Award recipient in 2017.

With a Bachelor of Physical and Health Education degree from Nipissing University in North Bay along with a diploma in Fitness and Health Promotion from Georgian College, he’s also a licensed personal trainer with the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology and a certified Level III Trainer with Hockey Canada’s Trainer Certification Program.

Among his other accomplishments saw Johnson twice serve on the Team NOJHL staff that competed in recent Eastern Canada Cup Jr. A Challenge events.

He just wrapped up the initial portion of his duties with Canada East at their Summer Selection Camp held last week in Cornwall, Ont.

Now gearing up for the start of training camp with Powassan, Johnson took some time out of his schedule to provide some of thoughts on his Canada East appointment, the World Junior A Challenge, the Voodoos and the NOJHL in this league Q&A segment.

NOJHL: Give us your thoughts on being named Canada East equipment manager for the WJAC.

J.J. JOHNSON: I’m absolutely thrilled and humbled to have been named equipment manager for Team Canada East. An opportunity like this doesn’t come knocking very often and when it does, you should jump all over it, so that’s what I did. I’m really looking forward to being a part of the team and competing for a medal in Dawson Creek this December.

NOJHL: What does the opportunity to represent your country on the international hockey stage mean to you?

J.J.: There really aren’t any words that could adequately sum up what this opportunity means to me. I’m starting my sixth season as a hockey trainer and back at the start when I was first starting out, I knew in the back of my mind that being on Team Canada was a goal of mine. I’m still kind of in shock to be honest. I am just so happy and appreciative towards everyone that has helped me along the way to this.

NOJHL: What will your duties be with the team, leading up to the event, as well as during the WJAC?

J.J.: During the WJAC I’ll essentially be responsible for ensuring that players have everything they need and are as prepared as possible to go out on the ice and play their best. Setting up the dressing room, sharpening skates and making sure we have all the supplies we need are just a few of the tasks I’ll be responsible for. I know that Mark Francisco, who is also on the team staff, and I have met and discussed things that will need to be done as well as the game plan for how things will work during the event so I’m sure we will be a well-oiled machine and things are going to go great.

NOJHL: How was your experience being at the Canada East selection camp last week in Cornwall?

J.J.: My experience in Cornwall was something I won’t forget. You know you love doing something when you work 16-18-hour days on only five-six hours of sleep. It was a lot of work, but it was also a ton of fun.

NOJHL: What do you think it says about the NOJHL that both yourself and Corey Beer in Timmins were both named to the Canada East staff?

J.J.: For the NOJHL to have both a coach and a trainer/equipment manager represent Team Canada East, I think it shows that the league is a fantastic development league, not only for players but also for staff. I know Corey pretty well from playing against the Timmins Rock over the past couple of seasons and I know he’s a very good coach that is always prepared for each and every game. Both the NOJHL and Team Canada East are fortunate to have him.

NOJHL: What have been some of your favourite moments been in working in the NOJHL and with the Voodoos?

J.J.: Working with Team NOJHL as a trainer and equipment manager at the Eastern Canada Cup in 2016-17 and 2017-18 was a great experience and definitely some of my favourite memories with the league. As a trainer for the Powassan Voodoos, a few moments that stand out to me are the 25-game winning streak we had in 2016-17, winning the NOJHL championship and being able to witness the unbelievable talent we had in goaltender Nate McDonald. Participating in the Dudley-Hewitt Cup in Trenton, Ont. is also a moment in my life that I’ll never forget.

NOJHL: How important is it to you that the NOJHL, under the leadership and guidance of commissioner Robert Mazzuca, has become so heavily involved in such areas as concussion management and mental health initiatives?

J.J.: I think it’s great that the NOJHL is participating in both concussion and mental health initiatives because both are topics that we can not shy away from. Concussions are something that happen in every sport, not just hockey and we can’t turn a blind eye to them. Mental health issues obviously are something that is very prevalent in society today and with kids moving away from home to play hockey I think it’s great that the league is providing tools for everyone to use if they feel like they need it.

NOJHL: What are some of your future goals in hockey or sport?

J.J.: Well, I think I speak for the entire Powassan Voodoos organization when I say my future goal is to win a Dudley-Hewitt Cup and participate at a Canadian National Junior A Championship. That would be unreal. Personally, I know that I’m writing the Registered Kinesiologist exam this fall and have made it a goal to pass, so I can be a regulated health care professional.

Photo credit: Robert Lefebvre, icelevel.com