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Life on Two Teams

Sep 16, 2013, 11:57 AM EDT

Stephen Johns was a 2010 NHL draftee of the Chicago Blackhawks (PHOTO: Joe Weiser)

Anna Gonzalez is a @JrNDBloggers beat writer for the Notre Dame hockey team. Throughout the year she will be reporting on the Irish hockey team and other various athletic events.

The NHL Draft and the NFL Draft are extremely different. College hockey players, if a team in the NHL Entry Draft has chosen them, can say that they are a Red Wing, a King, a Bruin, a Duck—what have you—during their time in school. College football players can’t say they’re a Bengal, a Bear, a Packer, a Colt, or any other NFL mascot until after they’re done playing college ball. The NHL Entry Draft allows pro teams to take hockey players who are (most often) 18 or 19 years old, draft them, and watch them develop throughout their time in college.

That’s what the Blackhawks have been doing with senior defenseman Stephen Johns. Johns, as of right now, is a Blackhawk, and he has been since 2010, when he was drafted in the 2nd Round  (60th overall) of the Entry Draft. He attends their prospect camps (on his own dime) and shows up on their prospect roster online.

But this weekend, the tables turned a little. Instead of Johns going to the home of the Blackhawks, United Center, the Blackhawks came to Johns’ home at the Compton Family Ice Arena at Notre Dame.

“I got very excited,” said Johns. “Getting to see my future team play in the same rink I play in every day. I thought that was going to be a cool experience. I have a lot of good friends on the team now and it’s been good to see them this week.”

There’s a lot of pressure for Johns knowing that an NHL team “owns” him, but could let him go at any time. “You wouldn’t be human if you never felt any pressure or weren’t nervous about your future, and you can’t look towards the future too much. But being here, I try to put that in perspective: I’m only going to be here for four years, and I have to really focus on my time here and excel academically, as a young human being and try to excel both on and off the ice. I’m just focused on spending my time here as well as I can.”

Johns keeps reminding himself that nothing is set in stone. After all, a year is a long time. In order to actually end up in Chicago next year,  Johns knows what he has to do, “I just have to have a good year here and stay healthy, but I don’t want to look too much into the future. There’s just too much that could happen. I still have to get a heck of a lot better as a hockey player and as a person.”

As of today, not all the Blackhawks will be leaving South Bend. Stephen Johns will still be here enjoying his senior season at Notre Dame and working hard to try to ensure his future in Chicago.

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