NHLer arrives for opening ceremony

By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER - Being an Olympian and having a chance to march in the Opening Ceremony in front of the world is a priceless experience.

American Jack Johnson was willing to ante up out of his own pocket whatever it cost to get here for what he called a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The Los Angeles Kings defenceman chartered a plane to fly himself, his parents and little brother here for Friday night’s opening ceremony.

“It cost a lot, but it was worth every penny,” said the 23-year-old NHL defenceman.

The six-seater left L.A. at 6 a.m. Friday and flew them to Bellingham, Wash., where they had a driver take them over the border and deliver Johnson to the athletes village.

A six-seat charter for that trip would cost between $13,000 and $16,000, estimated Dan Probert, the owner of DukeJets, Ltd., a charter company.

It’s believed Johnson became the first active NHLer to march in the opening ceremony.

“I had to take some extreme measures to get here, but it was worth every bit of it. To have the opportunity to walk alongside the other Olympians from my country and walk in the opening ceremonies is something that I will never forget,” he said.

“There’s no way I was going to let this opportunity slip by.”

When he was named to the U.S. hockey team, Johnson said he checked the schedule and saw there was a window to march in the ceremony with it falling between two Kings home games.

He planned to drive back to Bellingham after Friday’s event and fly back to L.A., expecting to land around midnight.

He got permission from the Kings to skip Friday’s practice and said coach Terry Murray was “very supportive” of his attending the ceremony.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

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