Summer 2024

Ryan Johansen impresses with Avalanche, seeks 'to spend the rest of my life following Jesus'

The Colorado Avalanche has made the NHL playoffs each of the past six seasons, and two years ago captured its third ever Stanley Cup. The Avs are one of hockey’s best teams yet again this season as they hold a 25-11-3 record, a one-point lead in the Western Conference’s Central Division, and their 53 points are tied for the most in NHL.

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Shrewd offseason roster moves are one of the reasons Colorado has been able to maintain consistent excellence. This past offseason, one such move came in the form of a trade with the Predators for 31-year-old center Ryan Johansen, who had spent 7 1/2 years in Nashville. In the Avalanche’s 39 games played so far this season, Johansen has netted 11 goals and recorded four assists. Those 11 scores are the fourth most on the Avalanche, helping Colorado to be the NHL’s second highest-scoring team.

Three of Johansen’s goals have been game-winning scores, and his most recent goal Dec. 29 was the 200th of his career.

The Avalanche’s victory that day began its current four-game winning streak.

Since his arrival in Colorado before the season, Johansen’s fit with the team hasn’t only been seamless on the ice. Off the ice as well, Johansen’s teammates rave about how much they enjoy having him around.

“He’s a great personality for our room, honestly,” Avalanche center Andrew Cogliano told the Denver Post in November. “He’s just a guy you want to be around. I’m not surprised that anyone you talk to has really good things to say about him as a teammate and a guy.

“We’re seeing that firsthand now. He’s a really genuine person. I think that’s why he gets along with a lot of different guys. He’s fit in well. He’s added another element to our team. I think he’s a different personality that we probably needed. … He’s a guy that brings everyone together.”

Never was Johansen’s empathy more on display than when the Avalanche took a “Moms’ Trip” to Las Vegas earlier in November, an occasion where the players invited their mothers along to spend time together and watch the team’s game against the Golden Knights. For the trip, Johansen decided to have T-shirts made for all the players and their mothers to honor Lana Manson, the mother of Avalanche defenseman Josh Manson, who passed away in August from melanoma.

“Very, very thoughtful of him,” Manson told the Denver Post of Johansen’s gesture. “I don’t think I can express how appreciative I am of his acknowledgment of the situation.”

Avalanche forward Logan O’Connor has been especially impressed with Johansen’s heart for others.

“Honestly, I haven’t played with him that long, but he’s probably one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever played with,” O’Connor told the Denver Post. “It’s just how he is as a person. He’s caring. He makes everyone feel welcome. He keeps things light. He’s fun to be around.

“What he did for [Manson] with those T-shirts sort of embodies who he is as a person. He hasn’t been here that long. He went out and did that just because he’s a great guy and person. I’ve loved my time with him.”

Johansen, who was also very active in the Nashville Predators’ charitable foundation, recently recorded an “I Once Was” video with Sports Spectrum and explained that his care for the people around him stems from his growing faith in Christ.

“There was just an emptiness in me of just having this feeling that there was more out there for me,” Johansen said in the video about where he found himself at the age of 29, having a successful NHL career and plenty of money, but having never been to church or recognized his need for a relationship with Christ.

Then, Johansen met a woman named Abbey, a follower of Christ. She encouraged him in faith for months and invited him to church, where she sang in the choir. Finally, he agreed to go.

“The Lord took over,” he said of his first service, “and I started balling my eyes out. Borderline weeping crying. I just couldn’t control it, and … I couldn’t help thinking the rest of that service, ‘Wow, this is where I belong.'”

At a Christian conference for hockey players a month later, his life was changed forever as he came to faith in Christ.

“I decided at the end of that conference that I wanted to get baptized and I wanted to spend the rest of my life following Jesus,” he said. “… Him being in my heart, it’s a special feeling.”

In the rink, Johansen and his Avalanche teammates will seek to extend their win streak to five in their next game, a matchup at home with the Florida Panthers (24-12-2) on Saturday. Faceoff is set for 4 p.m. ET.

>> Do you know Christ personally? Learn how you can commit your life to Him. <<

WATCH: ‘I ONCE WAS’ – NHL center Ryan Johansen
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