Q&A with Chad Johnson

By DJ Powers

Chad Johnson enjoyed a stellar senior campaign that ended with the Pittsburgh Penguins prospect being named the CCHA Player of the Year. Johnson backstopped the University of Alaska Nanooks to a top-four finish in the conference standings. 

Hockey’s Future caught up with Johnson after the Frozen Four Skills Challenge at the Verizon Center in Washington DC on Friday night.

HF: So how has the Skills Challenge been for you?
CJ: It was awesome. Bauer has put on a great event for all of us seniors. I came a long way and they helped out to get here, so it’s pretty awesome being here. So I’m really happy that I could come down here to represent my school and myself.

HF: I wanted to congratulate you on a great year with Alaska. So what was it about this year that turned things around for you?
CJ: Thank you. I think the first thing was probably (then assistant) Coach Ferguson being named head coach up there. He brought a new attitude and just the atmosphere that he brought to the program. I think that was the biggest thing. The person at the top has the biggest influence on the team. And the way he is as a person both on and off the ice definitely influences as a team both in the dressing room and on the ice. I think this year was a big year for a lot of guys and we wanted to prove a lot with Coach Ferguson coming in. Last year we didn’t do very well, so it was important to us to have a good year this year. Everyone bought into the system that Coach Ferguson brought to the table for us and that’s really why we had a good year.

HF: Seniors like yourself on the team had the opportunity to not only play under Coach Ferguson but also under Coach MacMillan. How are they similar and different in terms of their style and what they brought to the team?
CJ: Well Coach Ferguson knew what worked with Coach Mac as well as what worked and didn’t work with Doc DelCastillo last year, so I think Coach Ferguson has brought the best of both situations such has how to run practices and what to do and not do in practices. He’s a really smart coach and he paid attention to what worked with different coaches that we had. I think that’s really helped our team out, and with his positive attitude, I think it worked out real well for us.

HF: I know that you’re a Pens prospect. With your collegiate career now over, the waiting game begins. So how has that been for you?
CJ: You know, my advisor has been doing a really good job with that, handling all of the situations with Pittsburgh. He’s trying to figure out what is the best situation for me. Because the year went really well for me, I think I’ve been able to put myself in a situation where I can really take my time and make sure that I’m making the best decision for myself so that I can make that next jump. If it’s with Pittsburgh then I’ll be more than happy with that. They have a terrific organization. If we can’t get something done there, then it might be with someone else, then that could happen too. But I don’t really worry too much what’s going on with that because that’s kind of what my advisor is for and he kind of looks after that for me.

HF: What would you like to be best remembered for as an Alaska Nanooks player?
CJ: I’d say what I was able to help our team do this year. I’d like to be remembered as a guy that never quit. We’ve had some tough years up in Alaska, but this 
year we finished in fourth place (in the CCHA) and got to go to the Joe, so I’d also like to be remembered as someone that has really influenced the team, not just on the ice but off the ice as well in the community. I’d like to remembered as a good teammate and being a good role model around the community up in Fairbanks. Those are the things that I’d like to be best remembered for, not just the accolades for what I did on the ice. I’d like to be remembered as a real good student-athlete that worked hard and doing what it takes to help the team win.

HF: What are going to be some of the best memories that you’ll take from your four years at Alaska?
CJ: Again, it’s this whole last year just being with the guys and being a college player. Once you get to the pro level, it’s just different. It becomes a business. So I’m going to just miss the camaraderie that I had with my teammates. You spend a lot of time together, especially being up in Fairbanks. Your teammates are your family. What makes it different is getting close to all of the guys and just being a Nanook and everything that it stands for. I’ve learned so much from everybody. So it’s going to be kind of sad when I have to get on a plane and go home for the summer and get ready for pro hockey next year.