Colorado Avalanche Defenseman Erik Johnson, the Condor

DENVER, CO - JANUARY 08: Erik Johnson
DENVER, CO - JANUARY 08: Erik Johnson /

Colorado Avalanche defenseman earned the nickname “Condor” during a game against the Ottawa Senators.

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson is the cornerstone of the blueline. He’s a two-way player with solid defensive positioning, offensive skills, and the occasional mean streak.

One thing that sometimes gets lost is Johnson’s prowess in skating. He’s not dynamic like Matt Duchene or agile like Nathan MacKinnon, but he is a smooth, powerful skater.

I’ve been a fan of Johnson’s since he got traded to the team in 2011. He caught a lot of flak for that first-overall-bust hogwash. I never thought it was warranted, and the fact that he was so classy in the face of the criticism made me like him more.

Anyway, watching him for all those years, I was always trying to find an apt comparison for his skating style. “Like a horse” kept coming up, but he’s not as speedy as a racehorse — that would be more MacKinnon — and he’s not clunky like other animals.

Well, the perfect comparison finally came up — condor. Unfortunately, I can’t lay claim to that comparison. However, it’s the most apt description of his skating prowess possible.

Erik Johnson Christened the Condor

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It all started January 8, 2015. The opponent was the Ottawa Sentators visiting the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center. I was at that game, and, boy, was it a good one.

It’s not just that the Colorado Avalanche won — they beat the Senators 5-2. It’s that Erik Johnson was christened the Condor by color analyst Peter McNab.

Johnson was having an on game. He was prowling all over the ice, his long stride making the surface look small. The Colorado Avalanche were also having a good game, up 2-1 early in the second period.

And then Johnson scored a goal. It was the 11th of the season for him. (He was having a good season — remember when that was a thing?) The goal came off a set-up from Ryan O’Reilly.

Apparently at some point during the period McNabb observed on TV that Erik Johnson skating looked like a condor. It may have ended there except Altitude Sports announcer Kyle Keefe interviewed Johnson during the second intermission.

During the interview, Keefe remarked that McNabb stated Johnson skated “like a condor” and what did he think of that.

Johnson looked sheepish and admitted, “I’m not sure I know what that is.”

Well, now it was in all of our minds. Our cornerstone defenseman was a condor on the ice.

Erik Johnson and Condors

Condors, of course, are predatory birds. Their wingspan is around 10 feet. Our Condor’s wingspan is probably around his height, 6-foot-4 — not quite like the actual bird, but damn impressive just the same.

Well, it’s not necessarily Erik Johnson’s wingspan that had him christened the Condor. Rather, it’s that stride. Here’s an example (bonus points for being the OT winner against the Chicago Blackhawks):

Here’s another example:

That’s one of my all-time favorite goals by any Colorado Avalanche player.

Watch actual condors flying:

You can actually see the resemblance.

Next: Erik Johnson Scores Sexiest Goal of the Season

The Colorado Avalanche return to the ice this October. We still need help on defense. However, the team is lucky — we still have our very own Condor, Erik Johnson, patrolling the ice for us.