- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2001

Calle Johansson would like tonight's game against the New York Rangers to be special but even if it is, he probably won't be satisfied. Tonight will be the Washington Capitals defenseman's milestone 1,000th NHL game and in the previous 999, he usually has found something to criticize when the subject of his play comes up.

"I don't think he's ever satisfied; sometimes we have to tell him to just sit back and relax because he's doing a good job," left wing Steve Konowalchuk said.

"I don't think anybody hurts more when we lose a game than Calle," coach Ron Wilson said. "Often times he's way too hard on himself and sometimes that's detrimental but that's why he's been able to play this long, because he pushes himself. He's never really satisfied. I'm sure he'll find something wrong with it being his 1,000th game."

Fewer than 175 players in the history of the league have reached the 1,000-game plateau. Johansson will become just the third native of Sweden (Borje Salming, 1,148 and Ulf Samuelsson, 1,080) to get there. It will also be his 882nd game as a Cap, second only to Kelly Miller (940).

"How long did I expect to play?" he said. "I had a three-year contract and I figured if I like it and if I get to play, I'd stick it out."

That was in 1987. He had been Buffalo's first pick in 1985 (14th overall) but was traded to the Caps at the deadline in 1989. He was young, confused and upset that a team didn't want him and was thinking about going home until Bengt Gustafsson got him on the phone. The Caps star convinced him Washington was the place to be, a decision Johansson has never regretted.

"For a defenseman, especially a guy his size [5-foot-11, 190 pounds], to play 1,000 games is remarkable in today's game," Wilson said. "Calle has had an outstanding career and doesn't show any signs of slowing down."

Johansson has long been considered perhaps the best all-around defenseman ever to play for Washington, and has long been considered one of the most underrated players in the league. That was recognized worldwide in 1996 when the World Cup of Hockey All-Star team was picked and Johansson was there, even though Sweden didn't make the finals.

There have been highs "going to the finals" and lows "losing the finals" in his 13 seasons with the Caps. His role has changed slightly over the years, from an offensive force to the defensive quarterback a goalie wants in front of him in the last minute of a one-goal game.

A few years ago he was asked to take an aggressive young defenseman under his wing and help refine his game. He has turned Brendan Witt into one of the better defenders on the team.

"That kind of keeps you on your toes, too," Johansson, 34, said. "To try and help a young guy and also be there for him in every situation, I took pride in that."

The highs and lows are interwoven: "Beating Buffalo in the semifinals [1997-98] was the most fun I've ever had," Johansson said. "The finals was fun but at the same time it was also one of my worst memories in hockey. We got beat four straight. That's sad."

And it's the one thing he would truly like to change.

"I have only one goal and that's to win the Stanley Cup," he said. "Personal goals? None, none for me, that is. I want to play these two years [on his contract] beyond this one and hopefully win the Cup. That's it. I don't want to suck it up and play all those years. If I'm still able to play, maybe I will. But I'm not going to hang on by a thread just for the money, that doesn't work. If I'm going to play, I want to be able to contribute, I want to help the team. And win the Cup."

Maybe then he'll be satisfied.


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