Larry Johnston (born July 20, 1943 in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada) is a former professional defenceman who played for over 14 years in 7 different hockey leagues. He spent the most time with the Springfield Indians/Kings of the American Hockey League and the Detroit Red Wings of the National Hockey League where he served a short term as captain. He also played for the Canadian National Team in the 1968 Olympics.
Minor League Hockey
The Toronto Maple Leafs knew they saw something they liked in the six foot defenceman from Kitchener, when they drafted Johnston in 1965. Johnston had spent the previous two seasons playing for the Johnstown Jets of the EHL and the Tulsa Oilers of the CHL, showing great defensive skill and a knack for finding the back of the net or an open teammate. He also showed up in a big way during both teams playoff runs. So when Johnston was traded to the American Hockey League's Springfield Indians for Bruce Gamble, it came as something of a shock. However, it would turn out to be a blessing as Johnston would continue his great defensive play for city of Springfield as the hockey club was purchased by the Los Angeles Kings of the NHL and renamed the Springfield Kings. The Kings recongized Johnston's talent and decided he deserved a chance in the big leagues.
He played his first NHL game on December 30, 1967 as the Kings lost to the Philadelphia Flyers 2-0. He made three more appearances for Los Angeles during the season, picking up four penalty minutes and a -7 plus/minus rating. He wouldn't reach the NHL again for three more seasons.
In 1969 he was named the most valuable player in Springfield and also led the AHL in penalty minutes in 1968 and 1969. With his increased value, Johnston was traded to the Detroit Red Wings by Los Angeles along with Dale Rolfe and Gary Croteau for Garry Monahan, Brian Gibbons and Matt Ravlich on February 20, 1970. He started off in the Central Hockey League with the Fort Worth Wings before quickly moving back up to the AHL with the Baltimore Clippers.
Reaching the NHL
The following season was the one that Johnston had been waiting for as he needed only 12 games with the Tidewater Wings of the AHL before he was brought up to the Detroit Red Wings to finish out the 1971–72 season. After ten seasons in the minor leagues, Johnston finally found his place in the NHL with Detroit. He would finish his first season with a +20 rating, 24 points and 111 penalty minutes. He was a bright spot on a team that was losing its' direction after the Stanley Cup winning seasons of the 1950s. He played three seasons in Detroit before signing with the Michigan Stags of the WHA in July, 1974 and played there until a rash of injuries shut the defenceman down. The Stags folded late in the 1974–75 season, and the Kansas City Scouts turned to Johnston to add muscle and organization to their young defence. Johnston had one full season with Kansas City in 1975–76 before the franchise relocated to Denver, Colorado as the Colorado Rockies. Johnston suited up for 25 games in the 1976–77 season, and these would be his last in the NHL.
|Detroit Red Wings captains
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