(AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Calgary Flames netminder Chad Johnson will take a trip down memory lane when he becomes the first name inducted on the Brooks Bandits Wall of Fame Friday night.
The Alberta Junior Hockey League club will honour Johnson when they host the Calgary Mustangs (7 p.m.) at the Centennial Regional Arena.
“It’s always special to be honoured by former teams and one that is close to home,” Johnson said.
“It’s pretty special and humbling to have them think highly of what I’ve accomplished so far.”
Johnson played for the Bandits from 2003-05. In his two seasons with the club, he went 31-36-5 with a 3.16 goals against average.
It was a long path to the NHL for Johnson, growing up in Saskatoon and playing for the Bandits. He was drafted in the fifth round of the 2006 NHL entry draft by the Pittsburg Penguins, but opted to attend the University of Alaska-Fairbanks following his junior career.
From there, the road got even bumpier, up and down between the American Hockey League and the NHL for four seasons, playing for five different NHL clubs before landing in Calgary.
“The kids in Brooks will look at him like, ‘hey, I just got to keep working and I’ll get a chance,” Glen Gulutzan, Flames head coach, said. “Any guy that takes the long path (to the NHL) is looked up to by the teams he came from.”
Now starring for the Flames, the Bandits reached out to him with the thought of honouring him.
“It was a collective idea by everyone in our office and some of our alumni,” Tyler King, communications managers for the Bandits, said. “Once he signed with the Flames, we thought it was a perfect fit.”
Johnson will be at the arena signing autographs between 6 p.m. and 6:20 p.m. The Bandits will don commemorative Johnson jerseys during warm-ups – they will be wearing the retro jersey he wore and stitched with No. 30 and Johnson’s name on the back.
Following the warmup, the pregame ceremony will consist of a video tribute, the unveiling of the Wall of Fame, a speech and a ceremonial puck drop.
Johnson is bringing his family down for the event and invited his billet parents from back in the day, in what will be his first trip back Alberta’s Centennial City since leaving in 2005.
Still keeping an eye from distance on the hockey program, Johnson is thrilled with the way the team has turned into a powerhouse, sitting first place in the South division at 24-3-4.
Memories are sure to be stirred up as he takes a slight mental break before preparing for Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers the following night.
“When we made the playoffs my second year, our fans travelled to the Max Bell Centre and brought air horns. They were kicked out for making so much noise.
“The following game, everyone brought air horns and noise makers to our game. The atmosphere was amazing. I’ll always remember winning Game 7 and going to the next round. It was special for the city and for myself,” Johnson said.
Former Flame Curtis Glencross played two seasons for the Bandits just prior to Johnson’s time. His No. 17 jersey hangs from the rafters.
This season, Johnson sits 16-10-1 as his Flames host the Oilers 8 p.m. Saturday night at the Scotia Bank Saddledome.