Former NHLer Greg Johnson passed away on Monday at the far too young age of 48. USA Today’s Kevin Allen relays the news today from Johnson’s friend and former agent Tom Laidlaw, who says Johnson died at his home near Detroit, Michigan. No cause of death was provided, but Johnson was forced to retire early in 2006 due to an irregular heartbeat, making the cardiac ailment the likely cause.
Johnson played 785 games in the NHL, but will be remembered most for the 502 spent with the Nashville Predators. An inaugural member of the 1998 expansion Predators, Johnson led the team in points per game in its first year of existence with a career-best 50 points in 68 games. He would go on to captain the team for the final four years of his career as well. Laidlaw recalls that Johnson cherished his role with Nashville and took less money to stay with the Predators, while former teammate Chris Mason says that Johnson was “a big part of establishing the identity of the franchise.”
Johnson was also well known for being both the captain and star forward of the University of North Dakota in the early 90’s. He had been drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round in 1989 after a near-100 point season in the USHL and quickly proved he was the real deal, recording 272 points in 155 games in his NCAA career. Johnson broke into the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings and also spent time with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks. He accumulated 224 in 785 games in his NHL career and became known for his two-way play and work ethic.
Most importantly though, Johnson is remembered as a great teammate. Allen writes that Johnson was a soft-spoken and caring type of captain, who prioritized taking care of his team. Mason calls Johnson “one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met” and “the kind of guy that Predators wanted their other players to be like on or off the ice.” The Predators themselves released a statement calling their former captain ” a consummate professional and terrific teammate who was an integral part of our community and in developing the Predators culture that we experience today.”
Everyone at PHR wishes the best for the family and friends of Johnson at this time.