A member of the inaugural Flyers team, Jim Johnson, passed away on May 4 at the age of 78. He was born November 7, 1942 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Johnson spent all or portions of the first five seasons of franchise history with the club including 13 games during the 196768 season. As a Flyer, he dressed in 266 regular season games (66 goals, 102 assists, 168 points) and seven playoff games (zero goals, two assists).
“Jimmy was a very good hockey player; skilled with a good head for the game,” recalls Flyers Hall of Famer Joe Watson. “He was kind of a small guy but he could score and he moved around the lineup for Keith Allen and [Vic] Stasiuk. Jimmy put up a lot of points in the minor leagues, and he held his own in the NHL. Not a star but a pretty useful player and a good teammate.”
The 5-foot-9 center broke into the NHL with the New York Rangers in 1962-63 after being a junior hockey standout for the Sudbury Wolves (EPHL). The Flyers selected him from the Rangers with the 75th pick of the 1967 NHL Expansion Draft. Primarily playing for the Flyers’ original American Hockey League farm team, the Quebec Aces, Johnson racked up 72 points in 59 games during the 1967-68 season before moving up for good to the NHL roster.
The best offensive game of Johnson’s Flyers career came on November 19, 1970 when he collected a hat trick and an assist in a 6-2 win against the California Golden Seals at the Spectrum. Previously, on November 13, 1968, Johnson had a hand in every Flyers goal – two goals, one assist – in a 4-3 loss to the Minnesota North Stars.
On Jan. 28, 1972, Johnson was part of an epic eight-player trade between the Flyers and LA Kings. The Flyers sent young forward Serge Bernier, forward Bill Lesuk, defenseman Larry Brown and Johnson to the Kings in exchange for left winger Ross Lonsberry, right winger “Cowboy” Bill Flett, center Eddie Joyal and defenseman Jean Potvin.
Johnson played 28 games for the Kings over the remainder of the 1971-72 season, chipping in eight goals and 17 points. The next year, Johnson joined the brand new Minnesota Fighting Saints in the fledgling World Hockey Association. Coached by the late Glen Sonmor (later a Flyers’ scout) and Harry Neale, the player scored the first goal in the team’s history. Johnson retired after three-and-a-half seasons with the Fighting Saints and a half season with the Indianapolis Racers.
After retirement, for many years, Johnson owned a sporting goods store in the Winnipeg surburb of Transcona, Manitoba. He also coached in the Manitoba Major Junior Hockey League (MMJHL) and won the Nick Hill Trophy as coach of the year while behind the bench for the Transcona Railers in 1983-84.