Jim Johannson, longtime general manager and executive at USA Hockey, passed away in his sleep last night. He was 53.
Johannson had recently selected the U.S. World Junior team for the 2018 U20 in Buffalo, New York and was preparing for the upcoming Olympics in Korea. Indeed, he was front and centre in Buffalo, leading the announcements of the men’s and women’s teams for PyeongChang on New Year’s Day exactly three weeks ago.
Admired and respected by everyone who knew him within the USA Hockey offices and equally personnel at national associations around the world, his loss will be deeply felt in the IIHF community.
"Jim was a close member of our hockey family, we truly are shocked at his passing," said IIHF President René Fasel. "His leadership both within USA Hockey and in the international ice hockey community is irreplaceable. Our sincerest condolences go to his family and all those who knew JJ."
Johannson—“JJ” to anyone who knew him well—joined USA Hockey in 2000 and quickly rose through the ranks. He started as the manager of international activities and U.S. Olympic Committee relations and three years later moved up to Director of Hockey Operations.
“We are beyond shocked and profoundly saddened,” said Pat Kelleher, executive director of USA Hockey. “As accomplished as Jim was in hockey, he was the absolute best, most humble, kind and caring person you could ever hope to meet. His impact on our sport and more importantly the people and players in our sport have been immeasurable. Our condolences go out to his entire family, but especially to his loving wife Abby and their young daughter Ellie.”
Four years later, he was named assistant executive director of hokey operations, a position which involved selecting players and coaching staffs for all international competitions on the men’s side, namely the Olympics, World Championships, World Junior Championships.
Under his leadership the Americans have become a dominant force at the World Juniors, winning four gold and seven medals in the last 14 years.
Johannson came by his experience and savvy naturally. His father, Ken, played for the U.S. at the 1962 and 1966 World Championship, and Jim’s brother, John, played at the 1981 World Juniors.
Jim, younger than John by three years, played at the 1983 and 1984 World Juniors and later played at the 1988 and 1992 Olympics as well as the 1992 World Championship.
He played for the prestigious University of Wisconsin team that won the 1983 NCAA championship before embarking on a pro career that included nine seasons in the IHL. In 1990-91, with the Indianapolis Ice, Johannson was given the IHL’s Ironman Award for playing every game in the season while demonstrating excellence both offensively and defensively.
After retiring as a player in 1994, he became head coach of the Twin City Vulcans of the USHL before becoming the team’s general manager.