After Jim and Jody Johnson dropped off their son, Derik, on the Minnesota Duluth campus in June 2008, they went to Canal Park.
The UMD graduates didn’t want to be pushy as Derik looked for a college and a place to play hockey.
Jim Johnson, who grew up in New Hope, Minn., had made a mark at the school, playing in more games than anyone in program history, 174 from 1981-85, before going on to a 13-year career as an NHL defenseman.
“I knew where my heart was but I didn’t want to say a word,” Jim Johnson remembered Tuesday.
Last week, more than a year later, Derik Johnson gave a scholarship commitment to UMD for 2011-12. He’ll become the second son of a former Bulldog to join the team in the past few years, following Bill Oleksuk’s son, Travis, a sophomore center this season.
Derik Johnson, 19, a graduate of Notre Dame Preparatory high school in Scottsdale, Ariz., played four years of youth hockey for his dad and is in his second season as a defenseman for Penticton in the British Columbia Hockey League. He received contact from a number of Division I teams and had a handful of offers.
“At a young age, Derik started asking about my years at UMD and eventually he knew the history of the program,” says Jim Johnson. “When it came to making a choice, he said UMD was No. 1 on his list, and Jody and I were so happy because the school is still near and dear to our hearts.”
Johnson played on some of UMD’s best teams, which went 109-58-9 in his four years. He had 83 career points and was known as solid, defensive tough guy, who finished one season despite having two separated shoulders. He holds the school career record for penalties (193) and penalty minutes (402).
He had 195 points in 829 career NHL games, including a three-year stint with the Minnesota North Stars, before leaving the game in 1998 because of post-concussive symptoms. He’s in the first year of a two-year contact as an associate coach with Norfolk (Va.) in the American Hockey League under head coach Darren Rumble, also a former NHL defenseman.