Larkin, 'star-studded' lineup to honor Johannson in Stars & Stripes Showdown
Detroit — Dylan Larkin remembers the first time he came into contact with Jim Johannson.
The former USA Hockey assistant executive director died in his sleep in January at age 53 because of heart disease.
Johannson was one of those people who left a positive impact with everyone he met — including Larkin, who was still in college at Michigan the first time his path crossed Johannson's.
“He knew all the players — women’s, men’s, sled — he knew them personally,” Larkin said of Johannson's relationship with USA Hockey players. “He knew their families.”
That impressed Larkin the first time he went to Europe to represent Team USA at the world championships.
“My first year, my parents came, and I’m still a college player, and just seeing what he did for them, transportation from the hotel to the rink, tickets and flights and everything; it was just special how generous he was to everyone,” Larkin said. “He treated everyone the same whether you were a player or a younger brother to a player.
“It was pretty special what he did for USA Hockey.”
Larkin, and many others U.S. players and coaches, want to stay thank you in their own way.
Larkin spearheaded Sunday’s Stars & Stripes Showdown at Plymouth’s USA Hockey Arena, a charity game — and great opportunity for a no-hitting, fast-skating workout with drop-in team skates beginning soon — honoring Johannson’s impact on USA Hockey, and benefiting the Jim Johannson Legacy Fund of the USA Hockey Foundation and the Ellie Johannson College Fund.
During this endeavor — nearly every NHL team is represented, a sign of the league-wide support — Larkin found out how much work Johannson would typically put in while attempting to assemble national teams.
Larkin was at this spring’s world championships talking with Johannson’s brother, John, and USA Hockey executive director Pat Kelleher, and finalized the game with Kelleher and Scott Monaghan, senior director/operations.
“We were talking about how great of an idea it would be,” Larkin said. “We had a lot of steam behind the idea, everyone was rallying around JJ at the (tournament), and I saw that and thought it would be a great idea.
“It’s going to be special. A lot of superstars are coming into town. It’s going to be a star-studded lineup so it’s pretty cool they are all coming in to honor him and raise money for a great cause.”
Johnny Gaudreau (Calgary), Patrick Kane (Chicago), Auston Matthews (Toronto), Zach Parise and Ryan Suter (both Minnesota) are just some of the players committed to the game.
Red Wings players include Danny DeKeyser, Luke Glendening and Jimmy Howard, joining Larkin.
Numerous local pros such as Kyle Connor (Winnipeg), Alex DeBrincat (Chicago), Cam Fowler (Anaheim), Connor Hellebuyck (Winnipeg), Jacob Trouba (Winnipeg) and Zach Werenski (Columbus) also are playing.
Jeff Blashill, Tony Granato (former Wings assistant/current Wisconsin head coach), John Hynes (New Jersey) and David Quinn (New York Rangers) will serve as coaches.
“It’s going to be an awesome event,” Larkin said. “I’m not taking all the credit, but I definitely have had to get on the phone — my job has been to recruit players — which is ironic.
“I feel like JJ himself, when he’s calling guys for the world championships, calling everyone. You have to understand that it’s summer and people have families, and kids are going to school, or guys have things going on. It’s been been interesting, but mostly great feedback.”
Autograph opportunities, a live game-worn jersey auction, along with online auction featuring game-worn jerseys and autographed NHL memorabilia and special raffles all will take place.
Larkin is hoping Sunday’s exhibition will be a successful event honoring a good hockey man.
“He was a special guy,” Larkin said. “Just his patience with everyone. I didn’t realize how much he did for USA Hockey in terms of every national team. Men’s, women’s, sled hockey. His hands were on every national team.”
Stars & Stripes Showdown
When: 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: USA Hockey Arena, Plymouth
Benefiting: The Jim Johannson Legacy Fund of the USA Hockey Foundation and the Ellie Johannson College Fund.
Notables: Red Wings Dylan Larkin, Jimmy Howard, Danny DeKeyser join other U.S. hockey players, including Patrick Kane and Auston Matthews, as part of a star-studded lineup.