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Jimmy Johnson, original member of the Flyers and part of a blockbuster trade, dies at 78

A center, he scored 17, 18, and 16 goals, respectively, in his first three full seasons with the Flyers.

Jimmy Johnson battles for the puck against Boston. An original Flyer in the franchise's first season in 1967-68, he died Tuesday at 78.
Jimmy Johnson battles for the puck against Boston. An original Flyer in the franchise's first season in 1967-68, he died Tuesday at 78.Read moreFlyers

Jimmy Johnson, a center who was a member of the original Flyers in 1967-68 and played parts of five seasons with the team, died Tuesday at 78, according to the team’s alumni association.

The Flyers took Mr. Johnson from the New York Rangers with the 75th pick in the 1967 expansion draft. He had the first goal ever scored by a Flyer, in an exhibition game.

“He was a good teammate who did everything he was asked to do,” Joe Watson, another original Flyer, said Thursday. “That’s all you can ask from a teammate.”

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A productive player who had 17, 18, and 16 goals, respectively, in each of his first three full seasons with the Flyers, Mr. Johnson had 13 goals in 46 games when he was traded in a blockbuster deal with Los Angeles on Jan. 28, 1972.

The trade sent Mr. Johnson, Serge Bernier (the No. 5 overall pick in the 1967 draft), and Bill Lesuk to the Kings for wingers Ross Lonsberry and Bill Flett, two players who helped the Flyers win their first Stanley Cup in 1974, and Jean Potvin and Ed Joyal.

Mr. Johnson, a Winnipeg native, had 168 points (66 goals, 102 points) in 266 games with the Flyers, highlighted by a hat trick in a 6-2 win over the California Golden Seals at the Spectrum on Nov. 19, 1970.

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Before they became teammates, Watson opposed Mr. Johnson when they played in the Central Professional Hockey League. Mr. Johnson was with the St. Paul Rangers, and Watson was with the Minneapolis Bruins.

“We had quite a rivalry going between the two towns, and boy oh boy, he was a key guy to their success there,” Watson said. “I played against him when he played for Winnipeg, too.”

Watson called Mr. Johnson “a fun guy to be around. He was never down; he was always very encouraging, always an ‘up’ guy. He could laugh at himself, and he could laugh at other people. Great teammate and a character. He liked his babalouie — which is Canadian for beer — and who doesn’t love them? Just a fun guy, a character guy, and a good guy to play hockey with.”

Facing an old friend

The Flyers will face Michael Raffl for the first time since he was dealt to Washington on April 12 for a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft.

“It’s weird seeing him in those colors,” said Flyers forward Scott Laughton, who calls Rafll his closest friend in hockey. “We’ve spent a ton of time together. We drove together every day and live in the same apartment complex. He’s definitely missed here by me. Hopefully, he gets a shot at doing something special there.”

Raffl has two assists over seven games with the Caps.

“He’s a really interesting guy. I think a lot of guys are excited and kind of joking around [about facing him],” Jake Voracek said. “There’s going to be a lot of chirping, but in a good way. He’s a good friend to a lot of people in this organization. We miss him dearly, but wish him success. It’s going to be exciting to see him.”


Goalie Brian Elliott will get the start Friday, and Alex Lyon will get the call Saturday. ... Like Cam York, goalie Felix Sandstrom was recalled from the Phantoms and placed on the Flyers’ taxi squad. ...The players drafted in the first round by the Flyers in 2019 and 2020 keyed the Phantoms’ 5-3 AHL win Wednesday over visiting Hershey. Right winger Tyson Foerster (2020 selection) had a goal and two assists, and York (2019 selection) collected a goal and an assist.

» READ MORE: First-round pick Tyson Foerster wants to make a run at the Flyers next season | On the Fly