JackJohnsonFan aka Justin Spiro interviews his buddy, Kings' rookie blueliner Jack Johnson.
Justin Spiro: The Kings have bolstered their defensive corps significantly with the additions of Tom Preissing and Brad Stuart. Has that helped ease any pressure off you knowing that accomplished veterans are joining the unit?
Jack Johnson: I think there is always pressure to perform, no matter who is playing around you. I will say this: those guys are going to help this team win. I look forward to playing with those veterans. I expect to learn quite a bit from them. I see no reason why our defense can’t be among the best in the league.
JS: Is there a defenseman on the team in particular that you would like to be paired with?
JJ: No, I think they are all great. I would feel privileged to play with any of those guys. That is a situation where you put trust in the coaching staff to set the lines. Whoever they pair me with, I will be happy. You really can’t go wrong with any of them.
JS: Who is your favorite player in the NHL from another team?
JJ: I think it is difficult to say just one. I have always loved Alexei Kovalev; a guy that in my opinion ranks among the most talented players to ever play. It has been a treat watching Chris Chelios play for so long, too. Obviously having been a teammate of his, I greatly respect Sidney Crosby. Really there are too many out there to give a short answer.
JS: What are some Jack Johnson pre-game rituals? Any favorite meal? What type of music gets you ready to play?
JJ: My routine is not to have a routine. One day you will find me joking around with other players, others I will be sitting in my locker stall zoning out. It is all about my mood at that exact moment. As far as music goes, I am not a big fan of the typical “pump-up” tunes. I like more relaxed, chilled music. That gets me focused on the game. I eat whatever the team gives me.
JS: The first time you were on the receiving end of a big hit at the NHL level, teammate Scott Thornton rushed to your defense. What was that like having your team stick up for you in your first game?
JJ: That was a very special moment for me. I have always been the one to stand up for my teammates throughout the years; really my whole life. I relish that role. That said, it was cool to have a respected veteran like Scott stand up for me that first game. I look forward to a career of doing the same thing he did for me.
JS: In only 5 games, you were involved in 2 fights and several other brief verbal confrontations. This marked toughness rarely seen in a rookie. What were those experiences like, and what made you so comfortable in those situations at such an early stage?
JJ: I knew guys would ask me to fight, and I knew that I could. I have fought before and I felt pretty comfortable doing it. These were the first of many. I did not consider it to be “getting it out of the way”. I considered it me just getting started.
JS: Even a year after the trade, you hear criticism from the Carolina fan base regarding your decision not to sign with the Hurricanes. Does that bother you?
JJ: Not at all. Not signing ended up being the best decision I’ve ever made. I was not ready at the time, and I’ve been dealt to a fantastic organization with fantastic players. It had nothing to do with Carolina’s organization; it was simply me not wanting to leave college yet. If people cannot respect a kid staying in school an additional year, then that is too bad.
I want to bury the Carolina rumor once and for all. My decision not to sign had nothing to do with Carolina’s organization. I made a promise to my coach at Michigan to play 2 seasons, and I wanted to honor my commitment. I grew more as a player and felt ready to make the jump after my sophomore year. I respect the Hurricanes’ decision to make a business decision. They did what they felt was best for their hockey club. I am thrilled to be with the Kings organization.
JS: Kings GM Dean Lombardi often refers to you and Anze Kopitar as the cornerstones of the team. In your brief experience playing with him, what makes Kopitar great?
JJ: Ah, Kopitar! What a great guy. He could not have been nicer and more helpful to me when I first signed. If you ask me, he has every tool necessary to be a superstar in this league. He is big, strong, and fast. He is the type of player that you hope to be linked to throughout your career. Anze is wise beyond his years out there and just an overall great person.
JS: You have gained a type of cult-status with Kings Fans. Many of them want to know if Jack Johnson has a “JMFJ” shirt of his own.
JJ: I cannot say that I do. I have given a few of them out as gifts, though. I do not think I would feel right wearing one. It would be like walking around with a nametag.
Somebody gave my younger brother Kenny a “JMFJ” shirt. My Dad and I had to stress to him that the abbreviation stood for, “Jack ‘My Friend’ Johnson”. He wore it to school at the end of last year and we had to prepare a ready explanation for the teachers. The whole “JMFJ” thing has really taken off. I think it is hilarious, and in a weird way flattering.
JS: For your NHL debut, dozens of fans lined up awaiting your initial entrance on the ice. What was it like having so many people supporting you right from the get-go?
JJ: That day was so exciting for all the obvious reasons. The fact that those fans were there just to cheer my first time hitting the ice at Staples really meant a lot. Just a humbling experience all-around. I could not figure out what was going on. I played college hockey across the country… how do these people even know who I am? I will always be grateful to the Kings fans for that.
JS: Will Jack Johnson ever reveal his jersey number for next season?
JJ: Oh, boy. Well, I wish I could tell you 100% either way. Right now, I am just not sure. I wore 33 last season and in a camp recently, but I would say there is a good chance that I will wear a different number when the regular season begins.
JS: Many have labeled you a preseason candidate for the Calder trophy (awarded to the league’s best rookie). Do you like your chances?
JJ: I absolutely expect to be in the running for it. As far as winning it goes, well, there are many great players coming into the league right now. To be honest, the award is not even on my mind. My thoughts are on what we have to do to make the playoffs and make a run at it. All of the individual awards speak volumes of your teammates, anyway. If I am fortunate enough to win it, I will owe my teammates big time. I will worry about that after the season. The team and the playoffs are all that is important right now.
JS: If you could send out one message to Kings Fans, what would it be?
JJ: Be supportive, but do not be patient. I know we are not going to be. Their wait for a successful team in this league should not be too long. I expect some exciting hockey for the next year. We have a great blend of skilled veterans and gifted young talent. Some of the best hockey in the league is coming to Los Angeles very soon, and I hope they are as excited as the players are to deliver it. I am here to help this team win a Stanley Cup.
JS: Thank you very much for your time, and best of luck this upcoming season!
JJ: Thanks again to the loyal Kings fan base. We appreciate your support. GO KINGS!