Even with that experience, feeling the ice of a Minnesota lake tremble slightly while creaking and cracking was an unnerving experience for the defenseman, who is a top prospect of the Buffalo Sabres.
“I was a little freaked out when I heard a bunch of cracking on the ice,” Johnson admitted, after getting his first experience ice fishing with three Gophers teammates recently. “But the ‘experts’ told me that the ice is really getting stronger when it cracks, so that was reassuring.”
Tuesday’s start of spring semester was the first day that the Gophers have had class since prior to Christmas, and they have played just four games since early December. With so much free time on their hands, some players went to movies, some went bowling, and the team’s three players from Greater Minnesota (Blake McLaughlin from Grand Rapids, Ben Meyers from Delano and Jaxon Nelson from Magnolia) went ice fishing. When one of their Californian teammates wanted to tag along on a visit to Lake Independence, about an hour west of campus, they were happy to show Johnson how countless Minnesotans pass the time over the long winter months.
“They’re the experienced ones and were showing me the ropes. It was pretty cool to experience that and learn the Minnesota lifestyle,” Johnson admitted. “I’d seen pictures, but never thought I’d do it. It was an awesome experience.”
Although like a life-long Minnesotan, Johnson experienced two of the challenges faced by anyone who tries ice fishing. He got cold after a few hours on the ice, and the fish were hard to find.
“I was patient, but at the end of the day they just weren’t biting,” he said. “(Nelson) caught the only one, a little perch.”
Officials from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources remind people each winter that as thick as it gets, there is no such thing as “safe” ice, and people should be careful at all times when ice fishing. In that spirit, even after being reassured by his teammates, Johnson believes that the cracking and shaking he sometimes feels on the West Coast is preferable to his frozen lake experience.
“Earthquakes can be scary and they can shake the house, but with the cracks, I couldn’t imagine falling through the ice and getting into that water,” he said.
Gophers to host Woog Night
Life-long fans of Gophers hockey will surely never forget all Doug Woog gave to the program over the course of five decades. On Saturday the program will give Woog an official salute, hosting Doug Woog Night in honor of the late player, coach and broadcaster as they close out their home series with Ohio State.
Members of the Woog family will conduct the ceremonial puck drop before the game, fans will receive Doug Woog rally towels, the Gophers will wear their gold “Wooger” jerseys for the game, and there will be alumni testimonials and memories of Woog on the arena’s video screen throughout the game.
“Wooger was a special, special person in the history of Gopher hockey and athletics, because he had three lives here,” Gophers coach Bob Motzko said. “Outstanding player, an All American, outstanding coach, one of the best in the country, and then as a broadcaster, where the fans got to know Wooger. That’s where it really grew.”
Woog passed away last month at 75. When he retired from coaching in 1999 he was the program’s all-time wins leader.