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What it meant for the best friend of Jack Johnson to see his 1,000th game

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David Zalubowski/AP

Today was a special night for many reasons. The Avs took on the New York Islanders for the first time this season, Devon Toews faced off against his former team and Jack Johnson hit 1,000 NHL games played.
On such a special night where he was presented with the famous silver stick, his best friend from his youth, Justin Spiro, was there. 

They were friends starting in sixth grade, have been the best men for each other’s respective weddings. For Spiro, there was no question about being here in Denver on such a night. Not when his best friend was in his millennial moment. 

“He’s honestly the nicest guy I know, the most honest guy I know. He would really go through a wall for his friend,” Spiro said. “I have some crazy stories, I got stranded in Chicago on the side of the highway a few years ago and he drove like 6 hours, no questions asked to come pick me up,” said Spiro,” He’s honestly just the nicest guy, you couldn’t find a more loyal person than Jack. I’m really happy to see him in the situation here in Colorado.” 

The friendship started at a baseball camp the summer before they started the 6th grade. How many people have the same friends from 2020, let alone grade school? That alone deserves a plaque nowadays. 

“We were warming up right next to each other, the guy he was warming up with had a funny throwing motion,” explained Spiro, “So we were talking and said ‘let’s warm up together tomorrow.'” 

Throwing a ball, not passing a puck, kicked off this lifelong friendship that’s included being each other’s Best Men at their weddings. That, and navigating college and supporting each other throughout the years, through some tough times for each. You don’t last 1,000 games in the NHL by just being another teammate or guy. A memory that has constantly stands out to Spiro was the fact that Johnson participates in a charity hockey game that Spiro runs every summer. Johnson would always fly in for it and help gather donations by being the NHL player kids would get to skate with. 

“I told him in 7th-grade science class, we were 13 years old, that he was going to the NHL one day,” said Spiro, ” I don’t care where you are, where I am, when you go the league I’ll fly out for your first game. He left right at end of his Sophomore year at Michigan, they got eliminated from the NCAA tournament and I flew out to LA for his debut from Michigan. I never made any guarantees as a 13-year-old about his 1000th game, that was presumptuous that anyone would get there. There’s only 300 guys who’ve ever done it.” Well, Mr. Johnson is now one of those guys.  

Johnson was selected in the 2005 draft when the Carolina Hurricanes picked him third overall. From there he went to the University of Michigan from 2005-06 before his rights were traded to the Los Angeles Kings. He made his NHL debut on March 29th, 2007. He’s had previous stints with the Kings, Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. He was also a part of the 2010 Team USA Olympic team, with Erik Johnson. 

“When he went to the Olympics in 2010, I got to fly out to Vancouver and see him beat Canada in the first game, the preliminaries, and that was pretty special,” said Spiro.

Team USA took second that year and Canada took home gold. That was the year Sidney Crosby scored the “Golden Goal.”

Johnson signed with the Avs this summer on a PTO contract and then scored the Avs season-opening goal. He’s found a home on the number one team in the NHL. He has one goal, seven assists and has been a critical shutdown defenseman for the team. 

All this, for a guy who was supposed to have been washed up and probably out of the league before the season. 

Perseverance has paid off for Jack Johnson. One thousand games is the proof.

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