Painful injury can't stop Ben

IAN BUSBY -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:49 AM ET

Ben Johnson vividly recalls the whole horrific scene and the excruciating pain. Earlier this season, the Calgary midget Flames centre took a nasty spill in the slot, breaking his tibia and putting his Mac's tournament hopes in doubt.

"Did it ever hurt," Johnson said yesterday. "Have you ever seen Varsity Blues? I was screaming that much. It was that loud, it hurt that much.

"I was in front of the net and a guy had his stick in between my legs and he just yanked it. I fell over on the ankle. Really, my foot rolled up my leg halfway.

"Most of the people who saw it said it was pretty sick.

"But I stuck with it, got on the bike as quickly as I could. I just kept plugging away."

A little more than two months later, Johnson is back on his feet, finally able to make a contribution to the northwest midget team.

And head coach Bob Stockton couldn't be happier to have his 6-ft. 1-in. centre in the lineup as the Flames head towards the holiday tournament.

"He's playing more as our third centre right now," Stockton said. "But he's excellent on the draws, he's good defensively and he's very responsible.

"He's also starting to pick up the tempo for us in the offensive zone lately. He's doing a very good job for us."

Now that Johnson looks set to get into Mac's action, he's poised to realize his personal goals quicker than he thought.

He's about to become the first member of his family to play at the Mac's. And that's saying something considering who his brother is.

His older brother Nick never played triple-A midget but was able to jump to junior A and make an impact with the St. Albert Saints last season.

Such an impact that last spring, Nick was a surprise selection by Pittsburgh in the third round of the NHL Entry Draft after winning Canadian junior A player of the year.

Although Nick's name is now linked with an NHL team as he plays for Dartmouth College, he hasn't become too full of himself around Ben.

So the 17-year-old uses that as motivation as well.

"If he would have went to the draft, he would have gotten the star treatment," Ben said. "He didn't go. It was too much money.

"It would have been a good experience but he doesn't get caught up in it too much. I try to do the same thing, play my own game and not worry about things."

Still, Ben hears about how great his brother is and what he has to live up to.

"A bunch of my older friends ask about Nick, whether he's going to make the show," Ben said. "I just say, 'I'm doing all right.'

"Nobody asks me how I'm doing. I'm still working at that."

If all goes well, that could all change.

Ben could open up his future prospects with a solid showing at the Mac's. And he's definitely looking forward to the opportunity.

"This is pretty big because I haven't been on too many winning teams," Johnson said. "We have a good team.

"The Mac's is huge, the opening ceremonies will have a ton of people there.

"Hopefully, the butterflies won't be too bad."

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HALL OF FAME

JAROME IGINLA

Played in the 1992 Mac's Tournament for the St. Albert Eagle Raiders as a 15-year-old. Is currently an unsigned restricted free agent with the Calgary Flames after leading them to the Stanley Cup final against Tampa Bay.


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