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2018 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team General Manager Jim Johannson dies at 53

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Jim Johannson, the general manager of the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team, has died on the eve of the Pyeongchang Games. He was 53.

Johannson passed away in his sleep Sunday morning, according to USA Hockey. Executive director Pat Kelleher said the organization is “beyond shocked and profoundly saddened” by the loss of the Rochester, Minnesota native.

“As accomplished as Jim was in hockey, he was the absolute best, most humble, kind and caring person you could ever hope to meet,” Kelleher said in a release. “His impact on our sport and more importantly the people and players in our sport have been immeasurable. Our condolences go out to his entire family, but especially to his loving wife Abby and their young daughter Ellie.”

Johannson’s role in selecting this year’s Olympic team was his most high-profile job in a career spent in hockey. He also played for the U.S. in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.

The United States faces Slovenia in its Pyeongchang opener on Feb. 14.

“There are few like Jimmy,” said Ron DeGregorio, chairman of the board of USA Hockey. “Our sport was so lucky to have him. He was as good of a person you’ll meet and he played such a significant role in helping move our sport forward. Today is a tough day for everyone.”

Johannson began working for USA Hockey in 2000 after spending five years as the general manager of the Twin Cities Vulcans in the United States Hockey League. He was promoted to assistant executive director of hockey operations in 2007, overseeing the organization’s efforts in fielding teams for international competition.

He played college hockey at Wisconsin and helped the Badgers win the NCAA championship as a freshman. He was selected by Hartford in the seventh round of the 1982 draft, but never played in the NHL.

“When we heard of JJ’s passing, we are reminded of what an enjoyable person he was to be around, and also what he meant to USA Hockey and hockey worldwide,” Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula, who have a strong connection to USA Hockey, said in a release.

“We should all strive to do our jobs and treat people as JJ did. Jim Johannson, you have moved on, but you will not be forgotten. We will miss you.”

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Golden again: Canada tops Sweden for men’s hockey crown

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source: AP
Photo credit: AP

Four years ago, Canada was anointed king of the hockey world.

On Sunday, it retained the crown.

Canada became the first team in over 20 years to win back-to-back Olympic hockey gold medals, beating Sweden 3-0 in the tournament finale at the Bolshoy Ice Dome. With the win, Canada also became the first three-time gold medalist since NHLers began participating in the Olympics at Nagano ’98.

Jonathan Toews, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz scored the Canadian goals — the first of the tournament for each — while Carey Price was fantastic once again, stopping all 24 shots faced for his second consecutive shutout. With the win, Price finished the Sochi games boasting a 971. save percentage, allowing just three goals the entire tournament.

Price’s counterpart, Henrik Lundqvist, was equally solid in the Swedish goal. Lundqvist was the busier of the two — facing 36 shots to Price’s 24 — and did well to keep the Canadian attack at bay, especially during the opening two periods when Canada fired 23 pucks on goal.

The team in front of Lundqvist, though, failed to offer much support.

Sweden was shut out for the first time this tournament and failed to capitalize on the few chances Canada’s stifling defense allowed. The team was also dealt a major blow prior to the game when Nicklas Backstrom was ruled after reportedly testing positive for a banned substance — already down the services of centers Henrik Zetterberg and Henrik Sedin, Sweden lacked major depth down the middle with Backstrom sidelined.

That said, it’s hard to think any lineup would’ve generated much offense against the Canadians.

As was the story all tournament long, Canada’s team defense was outstanding. It kept the Swedes mostly to the perimeter and prevented them from generating offense through the rush, something Toews said was the plan heading into Sunday. As a result, Canada finished these Olympics with some staggering defensive statistics — three goals allowed over six games (two at even strength), outscoring opponents by 14 while outshooting them 241-129.

As mentioned above, the back-to-back golds put Canada in some rare Olympic company. The country hasn’t won back-to-back since the ’48 Games in St. Moritz and ’52 in Oslo; the last nation to win consecutive gold medals was the Soviet Union in ’84 and ’88 (and in ’92, though under the Unified Team moniker.)

WATCH LIVE: Canada vs. Sweden for men’s hockey gold

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Will Sunday present a stamp-worthy moment? Maybe, maybe not … but either way, the Canadian and Swedish men’s hockey teams will face off in a gold-medal game. Coverage begins at 6:30 a.m. ET:

Men’s gold-medal game, Canada-Sweden, 6:30 a.m. ET — CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

Both nations are coming off big wins against significant rivals, as Canada shut out the U.S. 1-0 while Sweden edged Finland 2-1.

The two nations haven’t met in a men’s gold medal game in a while, with the last one coming almost exactly 20 years ago. Sweden won on the strength of Peter Forsberg’s iconic goal.

There’s plenty of talent on the ice, including in net, as rising star Carey Price backstops Canada while Sweden features 2006 gold medalist Henrik Lundqvist as their goalie. Beyond some elite forwards, the two teams really stand out from the pack with outstanding defensive talent, ranging stylistically from Canada’s Shea Weber to Sweden’s Erik Karlsson.

Sweden aims for its third consecutive gold on the larger Olympic ice surface while Canada is going for a rare top finish outside of the comfort zone of North American ice. They are also going for the first repeat gold since the Soviet Union/Unified Team won three in a row from 1984 to 1988 to 1992.

This is a rematch of one of the most memorable Olympic hockey finals ever, the epic 1994 shootout game in Lillehammer, Norway. The game 20 years ago was the final Olympic men’s hockey tilt before NHL players arrived in 1998. Could this year’s affair be the last of the NHL era?

Sweden is going for its third straight Olympic title on European ice. Canada is going for its first gold outside North America since 1952 in Oslo. And to be the first nation to repeat as Olympic champion since the Soviet Union/Unified Team won three straight golds from 1984 through 1992.