Frei: Erik Johnson’s hand pump had been turned away since March 2020


Erik Johnson’s post-goal punch pump on Saturday night was as demonstrative of an after-goal celebration as we’ve seen of him in his 10-plus years with the Avalanche.

(Yes, it’s true – ten-more years).

So after the Avalanche’s 4-1 win over the Wild at Ball Arena, I asked the veteran defenseman what emotions this goal had triggered… and why.

“It’s been a while, obviously with the COVID year and then I haven’t played last year,” he said. “It was just good getting on the board again, and at home in front of the fans. It’s hard to describe the adrenaline and the feelings when you score a goal like that. If you could bottle it and save it for a bad day, you would like to do it because it feels good.

Johnson only played four games early last season before concussion issues knocked him out of the roster, and the goal was his first since March 6, 2020, in Vancouver. It occurred at 5:34 pm of the second period and gave the Avalanche a 2-1 lead.

“I think every time you go up against a division rival it means maybe a little bit but more,” he said. “It’s getting better, but they’re all feeling good. So whether it’s a Tuesday against an opponent from the East or a Saturday against a division opponent, I think they feel good. It’s hard to score so it’s something to be happy and even better when it comes to a win.

But he comes from the Twin Cities. I asked him if there was a hometown element involved at all.

“Except I’m just getting more messages from people at home,” he said. “Or less simply because they are crazy because they like the Wild. But no, it’s fun. Yeah, friends and family are watching at home, so yeah, a little, a little more of that.

Before his goal, Johnson had to stay on the sidelines after being nailed by a shorthanded shot.

“They seem to hit you in places where you don’t have pads,” he said. “I don’t know how because I have sanitary pads, and extra pads, everywhere. Just inside the ankle. It gives you a dead leg, it’s pretty useless after that. Of course, you spend the entire two minutes in the limp area. Luckily (Darcy Kuemper) made huge saves, other guys did huge blocks and I tried to hobble as best I could.

Johnson, a plus-6 at the head of the team, is enjoying his return.

“I was just telling the guys when we’re in a close game, one goal, it’s so fun to be there, just to feed off the crowd and that emotion in the building. Being part of a big game is really, really good. It’s so much fun to be there. The enthusiasm of the crowd and our guys… it’s so good to be back and be a part of it and be in meaningful games like this. It has been a long time.”

Terry frei ([email protected]) is a Denver-based author and journalist. He has been named a state’s Sports Writer of the Year seven times by peer voting – four times in Colorado and three times in Oregon. His seven books include the novels “Olympic Affair” and “The Witch’s Season”. Among his five non-fiction works are “Horns, Hogs and Nixon Coming”, “Third Down and a War to Go”, “March 1939: Before the Madness” and “’77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming by age. ” He has also collaborated with Adrian Dater on “Save By Roy”, was a longtime vice president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and has covered Rocky Mountain, Avalanche and NHL hockey in general. His website is and his biography is available at

His Colorado Hockey Now Column Archives can be accessed here

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