Another Johnstone behind the bench
It should come as no shock Carson Johnstone ended up behind the bench of a team in the Golden Horseshoe.
Johnstone grew up immersed in hockey — one of his first memories is standing with his father, longtime junior B coach Chris Johnstone, who was exchanging X-rated barbs with current Fort Erie Meteors coach Rob Hubbert during a game at the old Port Colborne Arena.
Fast forward 20 years and Carson Johnstone is in his first season as an assistant coach to Hubbert with the Meteors.
“I grew up around it my whole life with my dad being a coach and I learned a lot from him,” Johnstone said. “I always knew I wanted to stay in hockey.”
Johnstone played a couple of seasons in the Golden Horseshoe with Thorold and Fort Erie, and spent the last two years playing pro in Europe.
“When I was in Denmark and Sweden, I had the opportunity to coach some younger teams and I enjoyed it,” he said. “I finished my career (last year) and toward the end of the season I started thinking of what I could do.”
Originally, Carson and his father were slated to coach this season in Port Colborne, but when that fell though — there was talk Buffalo was going to move their franchise to Port — he was able to hook up with Hubbert.
“Rob called and I jumped at the opportunity,” he said.
Hubbert, who has had more than his share of verbal run-ins with Chris Johnstone, loves what Carson brings to the table.
“He’s full of piss and vinegar, just like his dad,” Hubbert said. “He’s 25 going on 40.”
Johnstone has performed a variety of duties for the Meteors, including running the power play, being in charge of the final minute of play behind the bench and pouring over video.
“He’s going to be a good coach,” Hubbert said. “He needs two or three years of tutoring to learn the ins and outs of this racket. He’s a great young mind.”
Hubbert, who has been around for what seems like decades, feels it is important to give young coaches an opportunity.
“It’s an old boys club and we get recycled,” he said candidly. “If we don’t bring young guys in, they don’t get an opportunity.”
Johnstone doesn’t even try to be a clone of his father, who is famous for his passion and short fuse when things don’t go well.
“I’m not even close. My dad is my dad, but for me, it’s just growing my own hockey perspective and my own mind had been important. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but it’s been a good experience so far this year.”
The one thing he does try to emulate from his father is the teaching aspect.
“Hockey has changed, people have changed,” he said. “You have to handle things a little differently. My dad had his ways, but one thing I learned from him is that he taught and taught and taught. With young guys now, it’s important to teach as much as we can.”
Johnstone feels it is important to take a little bit from each coach he’s played for.
“From every coach I’ve experienced in my career, you take the best and leave the rest. I’ve learned great things from all my coaches, even the ones I didn’t particularly like, and you take small rewards in everything you can from little areas and collectively I’ve grown.”
Away from the rink, Johnstone has his own business, Pursuit Hockey Development, which focuses on aiding players on and off the ice.
“When I was in Europe I used a couple of agents who were sub-par, to say the least. I had my problems. Everybody needs some kind of avenue and I wanted to open those doors for kids,” he said.
Johnstone also runs summer clinics, private skills lessons and is employed by the Welland Minor Hockey Association to run practices for single A teams.
He is only six games into his first season as a coach, but so far is glad he made the commitment.
“I love coming to the rink and love the guys. It’s a great way to stay involved in hockey. I look forward to continue to grow and taking it as far as I can go.”
And when he does have a question, dad isn’t far away.
“He offers his advice where it’s requested. He wants me to develop on my own. He’s a great buffer for me.”
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