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Tyler Johnson ponders next career, prepares for playoff push during NHL closure

UPDATED: Tue., April 21, 2020

Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) skates the puck away from Ottawa Senators left wing Anthony Duclair (10) during third-period NHL hockey game action in Ottawa, Ontario, on April 1, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick / Associated Press)
Tampa Bay Lightning center Tyler Johnson (9) skates the puck away from Ottawa Senators left wing Anthony Duclair (10) during third-period NHL hockey game action in Ottawa, Ontario, on April 1, 2019. (Sean Kilpatrick / Associated Press)
By Dave Trimmer For The Spokesman-Review

Before the National Hockey League season came to a screeching halt last month, Tyler Johnson was a versatile center for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

By the time hockey returns, the Central Valley High School graduate and former Spokane Chiefs star could have a new profession.

Don’t panic. Johnson won’t have a new job when post coronavirus life resumes.

“It’s pretty boring inside the house, but I actually started using the time for a little bit of good,” Johnson said last Wednesday, the day the NHL playoffs were originally scheduled to begin. “I’m trying to study (to be an investment adviser), something I’ve always been interested in. Now I don’t have an excuse. There’s nothing to do besides trying to stay in shape. Besides that it’s a lot of nothing, a lot of TV.”

How the pace of life shifted from 60 to zero surprised many, including Johnson, 29, who is in his seventh full season in the NHL.

“(Despite) all the news … you never came to the realization it was going to impact us until it actually did,” the one-time All-Star admitted. “As soon as the NBA (shut down) … we knew we were probably going to be in the exact same boat. It was still kind of a shock, we weren’t thinking about it, we weren’t preparing for it. … It’s crazy how quick it all happened.”

The Lightning had overcome a slow start to reach second place in the Eastern Conference, primed for a playoff run. They had extra motivation after getting swept out of the opening round last year following one of the most successful regular seasons (128 points) in league history.

“We were obviously very upset with the way things happened last year,” Johnson said. “At the beginning of the year we still kind of had that chip on our shoulder, the extra weight. It took a little bit to shed that, but once we did, we started rolling. I think right before all this happened we were playing some of our best hockey.

“We made some big acquisitions at the trade deadline. I think everybody was excited what was happening and where we were going to be. We were winning games, and we were ready for some vengeance.”

Johnson had 14 goals and 17 assists in 65 games, not near his season-best 29 goals, but he wasn’t unhappy with his production.

“It’s been a little bit up and down, but our team was a little different,” he explained. “We had some injuries … so it made guys play out of position and different roles. I was kind of doing that.

“I think one thing we learned through time was that we had to come together, put away some of our selfishness and be more team players. I think that is what our team was doing, I was doing as well, and I think that was making it so exciting. We we were really coming together.”

The league hasn’t canceled the season, but when or if it resumes is up in the air.

“My parents are down here (in Florida) so I’m spending a lot of time with them, which has been nice, taking the dog for a lot of walks,” Johnson said. “It’s good because otherwise I would be alone. I haven’t spent much time with them in a long time. There are bigger things in life, and this happens to be one of them.”

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