SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – The USHL hockey world is reeling a bit after learning of the death of Chad Johnson, the former head coach of the Lincoln Stars.
Police in Fargo, N.D. are investigating the death of the 43-year old Johnson. Reports indicated that his body was found along railroad tracks in the industrial part of the city late Monday afternoon.
The Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald reported Tuesday morning that Johnson’s injuries were consistent with being struck by a train, according to a written statement by the Fargo Police Department.
Johnson was the head coach of the Stars for three seasons until he suddenly resigned in September, citing personal and health reasons.
News of Johnson’s death struck the Lincoln Stars and the league hard on Tuesday.
“We’ve always said the Stars staff is more like family than we are co-workers and are obviously still shaken by the news and in shock,” Stars president Jim Pflug told the Lincoln Journal-Star in a phone interview. “Obviously it is an emotional day for us today.”
Johnson amassed a regular season record of 110-62-12 and his Lincoln teams made the Clark Cup playoffs in all three seasons he was there.
Ironically, he took over a Lincoln program first coached by his brother Steve, who was the team’s initial coach and general manager when the Stars’ franchise began. Chad was an assistant coach in the team’s first season in 1996. He also assisted for one season in Fargo before taking the head coach’s position with the Stars.
USHL Commissioner Skip Prince reacted, “Chad Johnson was a talented and successful coach, as his record shows – but he also had a way of connecting to people which was special, from his players, to the fans in Lincoln and Fargo where he coached, to those of us here at the League office. We will miss him, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
When he resigned in September, Johnson indicated a desire to be closer to his family in Fargo and address some health issues before they became more serious.
Johnson is a native of Grand Forks, N.D. and played college hockey at the University of North Dakota. Johnson played two seasons of professional hockey with Fort Worth in the Central Hockey League and also played in the old Colonial Hockey League with Muskegon and Quad City.
Chad was a sixth-round selection of the New Jersey Devils in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft.