Condor Watch: Erik Johnson Makes Fan’s Day


“Wow look at that number 6. Why haven’t I noticed him before? He’s going to be something special, a Hall of Famer.” ~Shelley Jones

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson is known for being a pretty big pest on the ice. He’s big, he’s fast, he’s very skilled and he’s got a wicked mean streak. (Just ask Minnesota’s Erik Haula, though he deserved it.)

Off the ice, Johnson is renowned for being a stereotypical defenseman — agreeable and conscientious. I’ve heard quite a few stories, though, about Johnson going above and beyond — being especially courteous (and generous) to servers and solicitous to fans.

All the Colorado Avalanche players are good with both media and fans, but Erik Johnson is a standout.

Recently, I saw the tidbits of a story come across my Twitter dash as a retweet from EJ himself. Here’s the original:

I reached out to Shelley Jones to find out the backstory of this tweet. She was kind enough to respond, and I found a fellow Avs fan who’s probably a bigger Erik Johnson fan than I am! Here’s her story:

 I became a big EJ fan in January 2012. I made a special trip from Auckland, New Zealand, to Anaheim to see the Avs play, my first live NHL game. I had recently been told I had broken my back but made the 12 hour flight anyway because I love my Avs!

More from All-Time Lists

I remember spending the whole game thinking, “Wow look at that number 6. Why haven’t I noticed him before? He’s going to be something special, a Hall of Famer.” That was the exact moment I became his biggest fan. That confidence out on the ice, his style. He just stood out. In September 2013 EJ sent me a signed jersey.

A little about our trip — I have turned my dad into a big Avs fan over the years. We very recently lost my mum, and we needed to blow off some steam. The Avs had their last 3 home games coming up, and we decided that we needed to go.I have been to Denver a few times before (always in summer or during the lockout unfortunately!) so we booked and got excited for it. My best friend in Utah decided she would fly In to see us and attend the last game.

The first night our seats were right by the bench and tunnel. I typed a note out on my phone, knocked on the glass and showed it to Berra. We left with pucks. Super special! Word must have gotten back to EJ because I recall him saying something about a New Zealander wearing his jersey and he “put two and two together.”

Later that week I got a message from Brendan from the Avs media relations saying that Erik Johnson had asked him to reach out. Brendan asked if I would be at the game Saturday. We arranged a time and place to meet before the game. Because it was fan appreciation night I thought that maybe we were getting a prize or something. No idea I was going to meet EJ.

Brendan met with my dad, my best friend and I. He took us to an area outside of the Avs locker room. I asked him “what is happening exactly?” And he said “it’s a surprise.” He asked us to wait while he went and got something.

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson reaches out to fan Shelley Jones. Photo credit: Shelley Jones

I felt sick, I was so nervous about not knowing what was going on. I remember saying to dad and Kelsey, “If EJ walks out of that door right now, I can’t promise you I’m going to be cool”. And then he walked out of the door with a huge smile on his face. And I was not cool. I think I jumped back a few feet. He said, “Hi” and opened his arms for a hug.

I admit, I left him hanging for a few seconds! I almost didn’t want to touch him. I remember thinking “I don’t want to get makeup on his suit!” He’s the biggest human I’ve ever seen. My reaction was kind of a mixture of laughing and crying.

He thanked me for my support and was incredibly nice. He gave me a signed stick and signed my jersey, took pictures and chatted. He was just a super nice, well-spoken dude. I thought what he did for me was so classy. He has no idea of the awfulness of my last year so it was really special to meet him knowing he really has no idea how much it actually means to me.

Colorado Avalanche players have gotten a very positive reputation for reaching out to their fans independently of any public relations get togethers. In fact, many Avs players regularly stop after practice to sign autographs and take pictures with fans waiting outside the gate. I don’t know if it’s true of all NHL teams, but it’s definitely true of Avs players.

Maybe sometimes these guys don’t realize how much impact those simple actions can have, though. As Shelley pointed out, Erik Johnson had no idea about what a tough year she’d had. He simply knew she was an Avs fan, and he made the effort to do something special for her. These guys are super busy — and the meeting came at a time when he was going through his own disappointments in his shortened season. Yet such simple acts are the kinds of memories fans hold onto forever.

Well done, EJ, and congrats to Shelley in getting to meet her favorite Avalanche player.

Next: That's Our Condor!

More from Mile High Sticking

More About Erik Johnson

Facts About Erik Johnson’s Type of Knee Surgery

Avs Players Need to Step Up in Johnson’s Absence

Johnson Necessary Aspect of Avs Defense

TBT: Erik Johnson’s First Goal as an Avalanche

Evaluating Avalanche’s Erik Johnson