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Ching Johnson

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Ching Johnson
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1958
Born (1898-12-07)December 7, 1898
Winnipeg, MB, CAN
Died June 16, 1979(1979-06-16) (aged 80)
Silver Spring, MD, USA
Height 5 ft 11 in (180 cm)
Weight 210 lb (95 kg; 15 st 0 lb)
Position Defence
Shot Left
Played for New York Rangers
New York Americans
Playing career 1925–1944

Ivan Wilfred "Ching" Johnson (December 7, 1898 – June 16, 1979) was a Canadian professional ice hockey defenceman who played for the New York Rangers and New York Americans in the National Hockey League (NHL). He was an original member of the Rangers and was part of two Stanley Cup championship winning teams. He was named to the NHL's post-season all-star team four times and played in the Ace Bailey Benefit Game, the first all-star game in league history.

A veteran of World War I, Johnson did not begin playing competitive hockey until he was in his 20s and was nearly 30 when he first broke into the NHL. Regarded as one of the hardest bodycheckers to ever play the game, he was a fan favourite and went on to play 436 games with the Rangers and Americans before spending his final seasons in the minor leagues as a player, coach and official. Johnson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1958, and is also a member of the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum and the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame.

Early life[edit]

Johnson was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on December 7, 1898. He was an accomplished football and lacrosse player in his youth.[1] He joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1916 and fought for three years in the trenches of France as part of a mortar outfit.[2] Johnson returned to Winnipeg following the war and worked for an electric light company.[2] He first played competitive hockey in 1919 when he joined the Winnipeg Monarchs of the Winnipeg Senior Hockey League.[1] He played two seasons with the Monarchs before moving to Eveleth, Minnesota where he joined the local team to play three seasons in the United States Amateur Hockey Association (USAHA). He then played three seasons in Minneapolis, concluding in 1925–26 with the Minneapolis Millers.[3] He was named a league all-star on defence in both 1924 and 1926.[4]

First nicknamed "Ivan the Terrible", Johnson later earned the nickname "Ching" when fans of the defencemen would shout "Ching, Ching Chinaman" to support him.[5] Though he was of Irish descent, he was called "Chinaman", then "Chink" and finally "Ching" as he was considered to have an Asian looking face.[2] His physical style of defence made him immensely popular with fans, and he was often seen with a wide grin any time he made or received contact during a game.[6]

National Hockey League career[edit]

It was from Minneapolis that Johnson was recruited, along with his defensive partner Taffy Abel, to play for the newly formed New York Rangers.[3] Offered the position at the age of 28, Johnson insisted on a three-year contract as he believed it would be the only one he would get.[2] He made his NHL debut in the Rangers opening game on November 16, 1926 in a 1–0 victory over the Montreal Maroons.[7] A rugged and physical defenceman,[2] Johnson appeared in only 27 of the Rangers' 44 games as he suffered a broken collar bone early in the season,[8] but still finished second on the Rangers with 66 penalties in minutes.[9] In 1927–28, his total of 146 penalty minutes led the team and was second in the NHL to Eddie Shore's 165.[10] He added a career high 10 goals,[11] and helped the Rangers win their first Stanley Cup.[12] Additionally, he was voted by the fans as the most valuable player of either New York team.[13]

Johnson was lost to the Rangers early in the 1928–29 season when he suffered a broken ankle during a December game against the Maroons.[14] A couple days after his injury, he had to be rescued when a fire threatened the Montreal hospital he was convalescing at.[15] Johnson missed virtually the entire regular season with the injury, but returned in time for the 1929 playoffs, and was credited with improving the Rangers' play as they reached the final against the Boston Bruins.[16]

His contract having expired following the season, Johnson was a hold-out when the Rangers opened their training camp prior to the 1929–30 NHL season as the team was reluctant to meet his demands for increased pay.[17] When the impasse dragged into November, he threatened to quit the game altogether,[18] before finally agreeing to a new three-year deal.[19] He appeared in 30 games for the Rangers that season, but again missed significant time, this time suffering a broken jaw.[20] Again, Johnson returned in time for the playoffs, but was forced to wear a steel mask to protect his face.[2]

Johnson remained healthy in 1930–31, appearing in 44 games and was named to the league's Second All-Star Team on defence.[11] In addition to being named to the First All-Star Team in 1931–32, Johnson finished just one vote behind Howie Morenz for the Hart Trophy as the league's most valuable player.[21] He was again named to the First All-Star Team in 1932–33 and led the Rangers to their second Stanley Cup; his defensive play was credited as being key to the team's success.[3]

In 1933–34, Johnson earned his fourth consecutive post-season all-star nod, on the second team.[11] He also participated in the first all-star game in NHL history as the league held a benefit game to raise money for Toronto's Ace Bailey, whose career was ended by a violent hit early in the season.[3] Johnson contemplated retirement following that season as he again found himself in a dispute with the Rangers on a new contract, but signed prior to the season's start.[22] His season was again reduced by injury in 1934–35 but he returned in time for the playoffs.[23]

Prior to the 1936–37 season, the Rangers signed Johnson to serve as the defensive coach while he continued to play.[24] He appeared in 35 games but scored no points.[11] Seeing little playing time, and having an offer to coach a minor league team, Johnson requested that the Rangers give him his outright release following the season.[25] Believing that he had become too slow to play, the team agreed.[2] He subsequently signed with the New York Americans,[26] with whom he played one final NHL season in 1937–38.

Post-NHL career[edit]

At age 40, Johnson returned to the Minneapolis Millers as a player-coach for the 1938–39 season. He quickly became the American Hockey Association's most popular star as large crowds attended games he participated in,[27] and was named an AHA all-star in 1939.[4] He served in the dual role for two years before resigning in 1940.[28] Johnson then coached for a time in California,[29] before returning east to coach the Washington Lions of the American Hockey League.[2] He also served as an official in the Eastern Hockey League. During one game in 1944 in which he was working as a linesman, Johnson forgot he was no longer playing and threw a bodycheck on a player. When asked after the game about the incident, he stated it was "instinct" that led him to throw the hit.[30]

In recognition of his career, Johnson was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player in 1958.[3] He was also inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in 1994,[1] and is an honoured member of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame. The latter hall named him to province's all-century second all-star team.[31]

After leaving hockey, Johnson worked construction in Washington, D.C.,[32] and later retired to the nearby community of Silver Spring, Maryland.[2] He and his wife Ellen had two children: Geraldine and James. He had four grandchildren and one great-grandchild at the time of his death in 1979.[6]

Career statistics[edit]

    Regular season   Playoffs
Season Team League GP G A Pts PIM GP G A Pts PIM
1919–20 Winnipeg Monarchs WSrHL 7 6 3 9 10
1920–21 Eveleth Reds USAHA
1921–22 Eveleth Reds USAHA
1922–23 Eveleth Reds USAHA 20 4 0 4 26
1923–24 Minneapolis Millers USAHA 20 9 3 12 34
1924–25 Minneapolis Rockets USAHA 40 8 0 8 43
1925–26 Minneapolis Millers CHL 38 14 5 19 92 3 2 0 2 6
1926–27 New York Rangers NHL 27 3 2 5 66 2 0 0 0 8
1927–28 New York Rangers NHL 42 10 6 16 146 9 1 1 2 46
1928–29 New York Rangers NHL 8 0 0 0 14 6 0 0 0 26
1929–30 New York Rangers NHL 30 3 3 6 82 4 0 0 0 14
1930–31 New York Rangers NHL 44 2 6 8 77 4 1 0 1 17
1931–32 New York Rangers NHL 47 3 10 13 106 7 2 0 2 24
1932–33 New York Rangers NHL 48 8 9 17 127 8 1 0 1 14
1933–34 New York Rangers NHL 48 2 6 8 86 2 0 0 0 4
1934–35 New York Rangers NHL 29 2 3 5 34 4 0 0 0 2
1935–36 New York Rangers NHL 47 5 3 8 58
1936–37 New York Rangers NHL 35 0 0 0 2 9 0 1 1 4
1937–38 New York Americans NHL 31 0 0 0 10 6 0 0 0 2
1938–39 Minneapolis Millers AHA 47 2 9 11 60 4 0 2 2 0
1939–40 Minneapolis Millers AHA 48 0 4 4 26 3 0 0 0 2
NHL Totals 436 38 48 86 808 61 5 2 7 161


  1. ^ a b c "Ivan "Ching" Johnson". Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Podnieks, Andrew (2003). Players: The ultimate A–Z guide of everyone who has ever played in the NHL. Toronto: Doubleday Canada. p. 407. ISBN 0-385-25999-9. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Ching Johnson biography". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  4. ^ a b Duplacey, James; Zweig, Eric (2010). Official Guide to the Players of the Hockey Hall of Fame. Firefly Books. p. 263. ISBN 1-55407-662-5. 
  5. ^ Halligan, Joe (2003). Images of Sports: The New York Rangers. Arcadia Publishing. p. 20. ISBN 0-7385-1228-1. 
  6. ^ a b McGowen, Deane (1979-07-22). "Ching Johnson, star of Rangers in 20's and 30's, is dead at 81". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  7. ^ Lawrence, Seabury (1926-11-17). "Ranger six wins debut in Garden". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  8. ^ "Pirates and Rangers to meet here this evening". Pittsburgh Press. 1927-02-12. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  9. ^ "1926–27 New York Rangers statistics". Internet Hockey Database. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  10. ^ "1927–28 NHL league leaders". The Internet Hockey Database. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Ching Johnson statistics". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  12. ^ "New York Rangers 1927–28". Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  13. ^ "Johnson gets hockey cup". New York Times. 1928-03-22. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  14. ^ Theis, Grover (1928-12-04). "Johnson, Rangers, has broken ankle". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  15. ^ "Ching Johnson Carried Down Fire Escape When Flames Imperil Montreal Hospital". New York Times. 1928-12-07. Retrieved 1928-11-13.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  16. ^ "Rangers and Boston teams meet tonight". Pittsburgh Press. 1929-03-28. p. 31. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  17. ^ "Ching Johnson remains holdout". Montreal Gazette. 1929-10-31. p. 17. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  18. ^ ""Ching" Johnson to quit hockey". Ottawa Citizen. 1929-11-08. p. 11. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  19. ^ "Ching Johnson signs". New York Times. 1929-11-13. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  20. ^ "Hockey: Four games tonight". Milwaukee Journal. 1930-02-04. p. 2. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  21. ^ "Morenz again wins Dr. D. Hart Trophy". Ottawa Citizen. 1932-03-25. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  22. ^ "Warming up the ice". New York Times. 1934-11-15. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  23. ^ "Johnson to skate in play-offs". New York Times. 1935-03-23. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  24. ^ "Ching Johnson signs". Montreal Gazette. 1936-11-03. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  25. ^ "Remaining original Rangers growing weary". Windsor Daily Star. 1937-03-15. Retrieved 2011-01-02. 
  26. ^ ""Ching" Johnson joins Americans". Ottawa Citizen. 1937-11-20. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  27. ^ ""Ching" Johnson minor loop hero". Ottawa Citizen. 1938-12-27. p. 10. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  28. ^ "Ching Johnson quits as coach". New York Times. 1940-06-19. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  29. ^ "Casual close-ups". Montreal Gazette. 1941-01-11. p. 16. Retrieved 2010-11-13. 
  30. ^ Kreiser, John; Friedman, Lou (1996). The New York Rangers: Broadway's Longest Running Hit. Sports Publishing LLC. p. 26. ISBN 1-57167-041-6. 
  31. ^ "Ivan Wilfrid (Ching) Johnson". Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  32. ^ "Boucher recalls memories of his 25 years". Regina Leader-Post. 1951-02-14. p. 21. Retrieved 2010-11-14. 

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