The Journey To Johansson

The Journey to Johansson

Mar 14, 2023

By: Jake Bondy


On the night of this interview, Eagles goaltender Jonas Johansson helped his team to a 2-1 overtime win against the Texas Stars with a .965% save percentage and a clutch last second cross-crease save late in the third period. This was no one-off performance; Johansson’s exceptional play has earned him consistent minutes in tandem with Justus Annunen. While he currently thrives here in Colorado, getting to this point was a long journey, one with many stops along the way.


Jonas was born in Gävle, Sweden, where hockey was a part of his life before he was old enough to put on a pair of skates. “My dad played, he wasn’t a goalie but, I mean, otherwise I think just playing on the street at home, playing during breaks at school…” His dad was a major role model, having played at the professional level in Sweden. As his knowledge and passion for the sport developed, he also came to admire certain big-league goaltenders who got their starts not far from where Jonas grew up. “I always really looked up to Henrik Lundqvist, and then when I got a little older, I looked up to Jacob Markstrom a lot. We’re from the same hometown, and he played with the men’s team, and I played on the junior team, so I’d try to mimic his play.” Interestingly enough, Johansson and Markstrom have even more in common than just their hometown and their path to the pros. “We [Markstrom and Johansson] got the same coach back home, Johan Holmqvist, who played in the NHL before, he’s also a guy I really look up to, and he’s helped me a lot along the way.”


To play pro hockey requires full commitment, with many hours a week of training on and off the ice and more than a few personal sacrifices. But this all comes in due time. After all, limit-pushing hockey boot camp is not designed for young kids who can barely skate yet, so Johansson’s development as a player began much like anyone else’s. “I started skating pretty quickly, I did skating school when I was six or something, and then started playing on a team.” For him, nothing quite compares to being on the ice, but he’s always had a fondness for a wide range of sports beyond just hockey. “Yeah hockey and soccer, the outdoor stuff, fishing and hunting and stuff, we’re in a good spot for that here in Colorado.” No matter how many other passions are on the table, there comes a point in any professional athlete’s life where they have to make the choice to pursue one particular sport as more than just a hobby. This choice came somewhat easily to Jonas. “I think at the time you’re around fifteen, sixteen, you have to decide if you want to play other sports or if you want to stick just to hockey, and it was not really a question for me, I was better at hockey than soccer. Then you just try to climb the ladder, take the next step every year, you just try to get as far as you can.”


His decision to play goalie came long before that decision point, as soon as he was old enough to play for a club. “[Choosing to play goalie] was pretty quick, I liked the gear, the gear looked cool, you could paint your mask. [The gear] is probably the biggest reason I first wanted to play goalie.” The ability to give his helmet a custom paint job may have been a big factor in pulling young Jonas toward the position, but throughout his career, there came certain feelings and responsibilities that kept his passion for such a high-pressure job. Jonas made his first NHL start on February 6th, 2020 against the Detroit Red Wings, a contest that went to a shootout. Of course, a shootout is a situation that puts heavy pressure on a goalie, pressure that not many people can stomach. However, it is something Johansson rather enjoys. “...just like in a game, every shot matters. But I love shootouts, you really step up and win the game for your team and that’s probably another reason why you’re a goalie, you want to have the power to step in and win the game for the team.” His attitude is one that craves the excitement of winning, not one that gives in to the fear of losing. It’s something that helps keep a goalie’s head on straight when all eyes are on them.


Johansson has been called up to the NHL several times per season since the start of 2020, although none of those phone calls were quite as memorable as his first. “That was a great experience, I was in Rochester at the time in Buffalo’s organization, me and my friends were having dinner and we were watching the Sabres game and saw the goalie got hurt so we were like, ‘shoot, I might get a call’ and they called me just a few minutes later. It was a really cool experience, something I’ll never forget.” Getting a phone call from the NHL affiliate is quite a familiar experience for Jonas nowadays, but like a true professional, he prefers to keep his mind on the present. “Right now I’m just really happy to be here, [Colorado] feels like home now, me and my family love it here. I love the team and playing games on a daily basis, it’s just great, it’s what I need right now in my career, so I’m just happy to be here right now and we’ll see where the future goes.” One can see the love he has for this town in the passion he brings every night, whether it’s in Loveland or Denver. Jonas Johansson has played in Sweden as well as all over North America in places such as Buffalo, Florida and Cincinnati, just to name a few. Still, it seems there is nowhere he’d rather be than right here in Colorado.

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