For 5 years now, we've had a little bit of hockey history added to the lore that is Muskegon hockey. NHL Hall of Fame goalie John Vanbiesbrouck has been the General Manager of the Muskegon Lumberjacks and has been in charge of a lot of the behind the scenes type stuff. Sure, the Jacks have come a long, long way when it comes to the entertainment value to the fan, but in the USHL that's only part of the show.
The USHL is the top tier of developmental hockey in the United States. The league is the proving ground for a future where athletes will take the next step on to the Division 1 NCAA competition or spring board directly into the National Hockey League. If you have watched over the last couple of years, players have come in from all over the planet to play in Muskegon. Russia, Sweden, Finland, Czechoslovakia. All parts of the USA and Canada too. What we have now is truly a global destination for players to develop and the direction of John Vanbiesbrouck is a big part of their choice to come to Muskegon in the dead of winter to learn, grow and develop as players.
Well, the hockey family suffered a loss of Jim Johannson in January of 2018. It was just before the Olympics and Jim was the General Manager of the US Team. It was a shock to the entire hockey community and felt across all levels of the sport. Certainly not easy shoes to fill, but with the skills and desire to help form the next generations of hockey players inside John and his passion about the sport and athletes competing in it...I think it's pretty safe to assume he was on the short list to take the next step to head up a level and begin to represent the entire country for the hockey program we have. John took the job with USA Hockey and his time in Muskegon is up.
John is a great leader and mentor. He also brought in none of the ego you might expect with a Hall of Fame goalie. His approach to work and Muskegon has been just what we're used to. Be proud of the team, the town and the objective. Hold your head high and don't let anyone take away what's being done at the LC Walker Arena because it's truly where the future of hockey is being written. He's brought in first round draft picks and he's challenged some of the players to fight through some of the hardest things they could possibly imagine. Thousands of miles from home, language barriers, being away from friends and relatives at a young age...he's got players climbing Mt. Everest before they are 22 so they can live the dream he did in the NHL.
I sat down to talk with John before he left. Take a listen and hear what's next for "Beezer"
We'll miss him for sure at the rink, but the opportunity is so big. On a players level, we're starting to see former Lumberjacks make their NHL debuts. It's a progressive league focused on being a spring board to greater things for everyone involved including our very own Hockey Hall of Fame GM. I don't foresee John being a stranger, but it sure will be fun to watch and see what he builds for the Olympics and to see his signature continue to be put on the lives of the players and the sport for years to come. Our very best wishes to John and thanks for taking a few minutes to talk about your time in Muskegon. To visit the Muskegon Lumberjacks site, click on the image below.