By Tom Miller
Greg Johnson, former University of North Dakota hockey captain and the program’s all-time leading scorer, died Monday in Detroit, according to his hometown newspaper, the Chronicle-Journal of Thunder Bay, Ontario.
He was 48.
Johnson, the only three-time Hobey Baker Award finalist in UND history, scored a school record 272 points in his four seasons at UND (1989-93).
“The UND hockey family is saddened to learn of Greg Johnson’s passing,” UND coach Brad Berry said. “Our heart-felt sympathies and thoughts are with Greg’s family and loved ones at this difficult time. He was a Hall of Fame athlete and more importantly, a Hall of Fame man. He will be great missed.”
Johnson went on to win a silver medal in the 1994 Winter Olympics, play 12 years in the NHL and serve as the captain of the Nashville Predators. He played in 37 career NHL playoff games.
In 2013, he was inducted into the UND Athletics Hall of Fame. His 198 career assists at UND are 30 more than any other UND player in history.
Johnson was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL draft’s second round in 1989, although he never played for the Flyers and was traded to the Detroit Red Wings.
He began his NHL career with the Red Wings in 1993-94. He also played for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks before playing his final seven seasons with the Predators.
After seven years with Nashville, Johnson signed with Detroit in 2006 but retired before the season when a preseason physical revealed a hereditary heart abnormality.
He finished his NHL career with 145 goals and 369 points in 785 career games, including a career-best 50 points in first season season in Nashville in 1998-99. He was Nashville’s captain from 2002-06 — the second captain in franchise history.
Johnson is survived by his wife and two children.
His younger brother, Ryan Johnson, played 13 seasons in the NHL (1997-2011) with five teams. Ryan played at UND during the 1994-95 and 1995-96 seasons before turning pro.
Ryan is now the Vancouver Canucks’ senior director of player development.