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Mar 28, 2017

The boy who became a legend















In a series of interviews with former team mates and coaches originally published in our matchnight programmes, we spoke to someone who knows Joe Johnston more than almost anyone...his uncle and former Streatham star Jimmy.   

"We are what you could call a hockey family, me being a player, my Father Alex a referee & my Mum Maureen was a match day official & did the game sheet.

There is ten years between Joe and I. We more or less grew up together, so shared some fantastic times. I started skating in 1976 when I was 6 yrs old and then went on to playing hockey about 6 months later

As soon as Joe was able to hold a stick he was all over the house smashing a ball around. I suppose having an uncle that played was all the encouragement he needed. I'm not too sure when he first put skates on but would have a guess at around 3 yrs old. He was hockey mad from when he first held a stick and then when the skates went on he was so happy and content.

We would play hockey in the lounge at my parents house as often as we possibly could. Sometimes things got broken! One time the window got broken with a sofa top corner shot that went slightly off target.

Another time Joe was playing in the lounge on his own and grandads foot stall got damaged, I'm not 100% sure how it happened but the leg got broken completely off.

When grandad arrived home and picked up the foot stall the leg fell off, on closer inspection he realised that Joe in desperation had tried to repair the footstall by sellotaping the leg back on. We had been warned many times about playing hockey in the lounge & Joe knew his Grandad would either ban him from playing in the lounge or would give him a good telling off if he found out. So in panic Joe carried out what he thought was a repair job.

So grandad propped the leg back on the footstall & called Joe in from the kitchen to pass the footstall to him.

Joe promptly rushed in (forgetting about the leg on the footstall) to greet his grandad, he then lifted the footstall up and of course the leg fell off! Alex then said to Joe "that's strange Joe the leg has fallen off" & " do you know anything about this" Joe relied "No Grandad" luckily Grandad thought it was funny and let him off.

So thankfully the lounge mini tournaments continued.

I went through the junior teams and at the age of 15 made into the Redskins as it was called then. Joe came to all the games & knew all the players personally, sometimes came in the dressing room after the games with me.  Joe regularly reconstructed the plays & moves in grandads lounge that he had seen in the Redskins games.

The Redskins played in the Premier division, the top league in the UK at the time & had some incredible players back then, the likes of Gary Stefan, Tony Goldstone, Peter Quiney, Craig Melançon & Doug McKosky to name a few who all knew Joe personally from entering the changing rooms to see me on a Sunday home game.

Joe played most of his hockey at Streatham throughout his junior career, but did have spells at Guildford. I loved to watch Joe play, but unfortunately as I was playing hockey & our paths crossed quite frequently as we were at different rinks.

But when I did see him play, it was always a joy. As a youngster he was without doubt  one of the best players I have ever seen in the UK. Some of this is due to not only natural ability, dedication and the love of the game but to his coaches who included Erskine Douglas (ex Redskin player).

England and GB coaches were Peter Jonker Johnson, Alan "Bean" Anderson from Scotland. An ex Toronto Maple Leaf who played for the Skins said that with his ability, Joe could go all the way to the NHL if he had the right coaching.

Joe represented England and Great Britain so many times and was always one of the main players on the national teams. He came back from one tournament after winning the gold medal for GB u20's, our family were all very proud of him. (I think Grandad forgave him for all the damage that had occurred over the years in his lounge!)

Joe finished his junior career at Guildford and ended up playing for the Flames for a season or two. This didn't go well and the coach of the Flames had no interest in him, instead bringing in his pals from Canada who were not as the talented as Joe.

This resulted in a very short spell at Chelmsford. At this time the Streatham Redskins had disbanded and he had no choice but to look to play at other clubs. Joe never seemed that content playing away from Streatham & when Adam Goldstone brought back the Redskins Joe jumped at the chance to play for the club that he loved.

Although a hugely talented player, I think that his passion to play for the Redskins out weighed his overall personal development, but at least he was happy.

Streatham was home and he loved the club which he had spent so many years training to play for. A true team man and a great person to be around. I'm proud to be his uncle and wish him a great future away from the game that has shaped him as a an even greater person."

By Jim Johnston (Former Streatham player and Uncle of Joe)

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