On this Independence Day, let’s celebrate the three players who were born in this country. Interestingly, they’re all defensemen — Erik Johnson, Zach Redmond and Nate Guenin.
Born: Bloomington, Minnesota
NHL Teams: St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche
U.S. National Teams: World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, IIHF World Juniors Under-18 (2 gold medals), IIHF World Juniors Under-20 (bronze medal, 1 other appearance), IIHF Worlds (bronze medal, 1 other appearance), 2010 Olympic Games (silver medal)
Other: U.S. National Team Development Program Under-17, NAHL, University of Minnesota
Erik Johnson is perhaps the most patriotic of American-born Avalanche, no offense to Guenin and Redmond. Johnson has simply spent a lot of his young life representing the United States in world competitions. He even earned a silver medal in the 2010 Olympic Games.
In fact, Johnson told the Avalanche website that the 2010 Olympic Gold Medal Game is his all-time favorite:
"“Even though we lost in overtime, to win an Olympic medal is one of the greatest achievements anyone can have, and it was probably one of the biggest games most people have watched and one of the biggest that I’ve ever played in.”"
Johnson was selected to be a part of the elite US National Development Program, spending two years with some of the best America-born hockey players. Johnson also attended the University of Minnesota for one year, playing for the school’s Golden Gophers.
Not that he could help this part, but he’s only ever played for American teams, first the St. Louis Blues and now, of course, the Avalanche.
Johnson even wears the number 6 because of his Team USA ties:
"“It was my under-18 year at the USA Hockey National Team Development Program at Ann Arbor, and all the numbers, 1 through 50, were on the board and everyone went up and put their name by the number they wanted. I was the last in the room and 6 was one of the last choices. I picked 6, and I’ve had it ever since.”"
Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nate Guenin and his team celebrate the perplexing win over the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Born: Aliquippa, Pennsylvania
NHL Teams: Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Anaheim Ducks Colorado Avalanche
Other: Ohio State University (four years)
On the other end of the spectrum experience-wise is Nate Guenin. He’s a meat-and-potatoes kind of player with a blue collar story. (Though he ironically has more college than Johnson, having graduated from Ohio State University.)
Guenin is from a small town in western Pennsylvania. He learned his work ethic from his grandfather. He told the Denver Post:
"“My grandfather worked in a steel mill for 40 years, and he would never take a day off. He always told me, ‘If you’re not feeling good or whatever you go to work, and when you have your days off that’s when you take off’. “"
In fact, as he slogged away in the minors, a lot of his teammates give up on playing in the NHL. However, Guenin refused to follow them to the European leagues. He said, “My dream is to play in the NHL and I wasn’t going to stop.”
That’s a pretty good representation of of the American spirit.
Apr 3, 2015; Anaheim, CA, USA; Colorado Avalanche defenseman Zach Redmond (92) reacts against the Anaheim Ducks during the game at Honda Center. The Avalanche defeated the Ducks 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Born: Houston, Texas, raised in Traverse City, Michigan
NHL Teams: Winnipeg Jets, Colorado Avalanche
U.S. National Teams: IIHF Worlds (bronze medal)
Other: Ferris State University (Michigan)
Zach Redmond is somewhere between Erik Johnson and Nate Guenin in terms of experience. He went to college a full four years, playing in Michigan for Ferris State University. However, this year he also got to represent his country when he played in the Czech Republic at IIHF Worlds, earning a bronze medal.
Redmond was born in Houston, Texas, but grew up in Michigan. He told USA Hockey Magazine that the move helped him get into hockey. “So being around the sport more in Michigan and having a dad who played a bit growing up is what got me started at a very young age.”
Redmond chose to play for the Sioux Falls Stampede (South Dakota) rather than go up to Canada to play in major juniors, even though he got drafted by the Canadian Hockey League Plymouth Whalers. He said of the decision:
"“It came down to decision time and ultimately getting to develop longer in Sioux Falls and then at Ferris State as well as getting my education won me over.”"
Apparently he’s also a pretty big country music fan — pretty American.
So, Avs Nation, our American-born Avalanche players are a small but proud group — and pretty diverse considering they’re all three defensemen.
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