As much as John Johnson wanted to stay away from his family’s auto repair business, the former Pete couldn’t have achieved his hockey dreams without the support of the business he now runs.
“This company bought my skates when I was 10 years old. He bought my sticks, he paid for my hockey registration, he put gas in the car to drive me everywhere I needed to go,” Johnson explains on a Zoom call.
Johnson’s father, John Johnson Sr., started John’s Quality Auto Service on McLaughlin Road in Lindsay in 1978 and ran day-to-day operations while Johnson Jr.’s mother oversaw the books.
Today, Johnson and his sister co-manage the auto shop their parents built. Johnson Jr. remembers how labor-intensive some jobs, like changing tires, were when he was 10 years old.
“It was a pipe bolted to the ground that had a platform that you could lift the tire onto and put it in place and you had to manually pick up the bar and pull the tire off the rim,” Johnson Jr. says.
“Old mechanics will know what I’m talking about.”
Johnson Jr., who played at brown-and-white Peterborough for the 1991-92 season, started as low in the hockey hierarchy as possible.
“The little town of Woodville is where I started playing hockey (in) Division E. E is the bottom of the pond, I would say,” Johnson describes.
Johnson Jr. rose through the ranks, eventually becoming a full-time OHLer for the Windsor Spitfires and Niagara Falls Thunder. He caught the eye of the New York Islanders during his draft year, leading the Isles to select product Lindsay in the ninth round of the 1991 NHL Entry Draft.
The islanders thought Johnson needed more seasoning. So Johnson returned to Niagara for his surplus year where he was told by coach George Burnett that he could be traded in the future.
“In the fourth game I ended up injuring my knee. I had a second degree tear in my knee. I was probably going to be out for two to six weeks. So two days later I showed up at the arena for abs and George called me into his office and said, ‘Well, I just wanted to let you know you’re a Peterborough Pete,’ Johnson recalled with a chuckle.
Johnson appeared in 52 regular season games and contributed nine points in 10 playoff games that year as Pete. Johnson played for the next few years in North America before playing another eight years in Germany.
Upon retirement, the Lindsay native first joined Durham Regional Police.
“Policing is the same as hockey. They are siblings that you make of your partners and there are so many things that correlate with that.
Four years ago, Johnson Sr. was looking to retire and didn’t know what to do with the business he had known for 40 years. It was then that Johnson Jr. and his sister purchased the business from their father, who returned to his hockey roots.
“My dad just turned 75 a few weeks ago, so if you go back to when he was 16, 18 or 20, there were a lot of good local hockey players who had just played for their club. who had Junior C or Intermediate,” admits Johnson Jr.
In the family garage, Johnson Jr. can be found enjoying coffee with his mother, who remains a staple of the family business in the role she has played for the past 44 years, during the hours calm.
“When Mom isn’t around, I can always look back on those years and remember the coffees we had together, the conversations we had, and the laughs,” Johnson said.