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Volume 24 No. 216

People and Pop Culture

USA Hockey Assistant Exec Dir of Hockey Operations JIM JOHANNSON yesterday "died unexpectedly" at age 53, "shocking the sport less than three weeks before the start of the Pyeongchang Games," according to Stephen Whyno of the AP. USA Hockey said that Johannson, GM of the U.S. men's team, "died in his sleep at his home in Colorado Springs." His death came in the "midst of the most high-profile role in his career: putting together the U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team without NHL players." It is "unclear who would be in charge of choosing any potential injury replacements if needed." Johannson, who played for the U.S. at the '88 Calgary Games and '92 Albertville Games, began "working for USA Hockey" in '00. USAH Exec Dir PAT KELLEHER said that the NGB would think about ways to "pay tribute to Johannson" in Pyeongchang (AP, 1/21). Kelleher: "He had his finger on the pulse of everything that was going on in the hockey world." He added, "Johannson was USA Hockey to most of the world. All the hockey federations in the world turned to Jimmy. The hole he left is so wide that it is hard to come to grips with" (USA TODAY, 1/22). Wild D RYAN SUTER said, "He represented USA Hockey so well with everything and he had his hand in everything. He was just a workhorse and loved what he did" (ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS, 1/22).

MAN OF MANY HATS
: THE ATHLETIC's Craig Custance noted Flames President of Hockey Operations and former Team USA GM BRIAN BURKE and Devils GM RAY SHERO yesterday had a phone conversation about Johannson and they "marveled at how many people USA Hockey was going to have to hire in order to replace one guy." Johannson had his "hands in everything, from growing the game at a grass-roots level to representing the country at all the different federation meetings around the world" (THEATHLETIC.com, 1/21). In Buffalo, Amy Moritz notes in addition to his current role, Johannson was the GM of many of USA Hockey's men's national teams, including the national junior team that "most recently won bronze at the World Junior Championship in Buffalo" (BUFFALO NEWS, 1/22). The GLOBE & MAIL's David Shoalts writes Johannson was "never front and centre when the trophies and medals were handed out to various U.S. international teams over the years," but he was the "architect of dozens of medal-winning squads" (GLOBE & MAIL, 1/22).

TWITTER TRIBUTES: USA Hockey and Wisconsin coach Tony Granato tweeted,  "We lost a true friend in Jim Johannson. ... He was the ultimate teammate." Sabres co-Owner Kim Pegula: "We are reminded what a good person he was, and what he meant to USA Hockey and hockey worldwide." NBC Sports' Jeremy Roenick: "I’ve been friends with him since I was 14 years old. He was such a great man that had a huge impact on USA Hockey." Red Wings LW Justin Abdelkader: "Thanks for your friendship and leadership as you always lead @usahockey with your heart and soul! You will truly be missed." ESPN's Chris Peters: "Anybody that knew JJ knew his passion for the game, but above all he cared about the people in it. Especially the players. This is just devastating." Hockey East reporter Catherine Bogart: "I couldn't have asked for a better mentor and supporter. Truly a devastating loss."

RED FISHER, the chronicler and the "conscience of Montreal hockey whose career touched seven decades, died on Friday at age 91," according to Michael Farber in a special to the MONTREAL GAZETTE. Fisher started on the Canadiens beat in '55 in the "era of train travel and finished it" in '12 when "reporters tweeted the lines at morning skates." Fisher "received one of Canada’s highest civilian honours" in December when he was named a "member of the Order of Canada." Hockey HOFer KEN DRYDEN said, "He was the best of his time, and his time lasted a very long time.” Although he was prominent on "Hockey Night in Canada" with The Fisher Report and "worked as a colour analyst on Canadiens broadcasts, Fisher was better known for the written than the spoken word" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 1/20). USA TODAY's Kevin Allen noted Fisher "covered 43 of the last 45 Stanley Cup Finals" and was "one of the legends of the game." Everyone in hockey "knows his name and status" (USATODAY.com, 1/19). In Montreal, Jack Todd writes under the header, "The Great Red Fisher Had No Equal" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 1/22).

LARGER THAN LIFE: The CP's Bill Beacon noted Fisher was a "larger than life character who broke major stories and covered the biggest events in hockey." Former broadcaster RON REUSCH said, “Everyone respected him. He basically ran the media here." Fisher upon retiring in '12 "appeared to be fed up with the modern media world of tight controls on access to players and rumours floated daily on social media." NHL Commissioner GARY BETTMAN said Fisher was "unrivalled in hockey journalism." He added, "Red's words were important because nobody knew the game or the players or the executives better." Long before analytics, Fisher "collected his own statistics, which he mostly kept to himself" (CP, 1/19). In Montreal, Stu Cowan wrote Fisher "touched people of all ages." Canadiens Owner GEOFF MOLSON said, "Red has been through three generations of our family. ... Something I'll always remember is how honest he was" (MONTREAL GAZETTE, 1/21). THE HOCKEY NEWS' Ken Campbell wrote if anyone in the hockey writing industry "deserves to be referred to as a legend, there are probably only two men who fit that profile." Campbell: "One of them is [MSG Networks hockey analyst] STAN FISCHLER. The other is Red Fisher, a hockey writer who set the bar so ridiculously high for beat writers" (THEHOCKEYNEWS.com, 1/19). NBCSPORTS.com's Scott Billeck noted Fisher's death "sent shockwaves" through the NHL community (NBCSPORTS.com, 1/19).

TWITTER REAX: The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun: "One of my treasured moments was in 2005 when Red Fisher pulled me aside and told me he enjoyed my coverage of the NHL lockout. I was shocked he knew who I even was. My knees almost gave. His nod of approval meant so much to me. Absolute legend." The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons: "Red Fisher was wonderfully cranky, occasionally ill tempered, and often intimidating but he had the best understanding of hockey and the best ways of explaining hockey people and their hockey lives than any journalist I've ever known." NHL.com's Dave Stubbs: "#Habs @HockeyHallFame icon @19LarryRobinson, laughing tonight: "Red congratulated me on one of my Norris trophies. He said, 'Nice going, Larry, but I didn't vote for you.' I said, 'That's OK, Red... I didn't need your vote.' He loved that." #RIPRedFisher."

Disney's BAMTech hired former Apple and Samsung exec KEVIN SWINT as Senior VP & GM for its SVOD service. Swint will "build, and ultimately run, the company's upcoming Netflix competitor." Swint "joined the company this month and will be reporting" to BAMTech CEO MICHAEL PAULL. Swint most recently served as Samsung VP/Product, Content & Service, where he built the company's Milk Music streaming service as well as Milk Video (VARIETY.com, 1/19).

FACEBOOK CHASES SPORTS RIGHTS: Facebook hired Eurosport CEO PETER HUTTON to "head up the social network’s efforts to broker worldwide deals for live-streaming sports." Sources said that Hutton will be "based in Silicon Valley" and report to Head of Global Sports Partnerships DAN REED. Hutton is set to join Facebook following the Pyeongchang Games next month (VARIETY.com, 1/21). Hutton will reportedly not be joining Facebook until "after the Premier League rights have gone out to tender, scuppering his involvement" in the process (THEDRUM.com, 1/19).

EXECS: Nationwide promoted Dir of Sports Marketing & Sponsorships JIM MCCOY to Associate VP/Sports Marketing & Sponsorships. McCoy will oversee the company's sports marketing portfolio, including deals with the NFL, PGA Tour Memorial Tournament and Hendrick Motorsports (Adam Stern, Staff Writer)....Sports Facilities Advisory promoted Marketing Dir ASHLEY WHITTAKER to VP/Business Development & Marketing. Whittaker will work out of the company's HQ in Clearwater, Fla. (THE DAILY)....ISC VP/Americrown RISHI NIGAM has left the company after six years to become COO of an Atlanta-based private equity firm (THE DAILY)....CrossFit named Podesta PR Dir BRETT EWER its first in-house lobbyist. Podesta Group was CrossFit's lone DC lobbying firm (POLITICO.com, 1/19)....John Carroll Univ. AD LAURIE MASSA will retire at the end of the academic year. Massa spent 14 years overseeing the school's 23 varsity sports (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 1/21).


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FIFA President GIANNI INFANTINO and IAAF President SEBASTIAN COE are "set to be snubbed" by the IOC next month when the body is "likely to again overlook them for membership." A source said that neither Infantino nor Coe are "expected to be proposed for IOC membership despite taking up their posts two and three years ago respectively." For years, membership of the IOC for the heads of soccer and athletics was "seen as almost automatic." But FIFA and the IAAF have been "left out ... as they struggled with widespread corruption and doping scandals" (REUTERS, 1/22).

NAMES
: In Tampa, Ernest Hooper profiled Lightning VP/HR KEITH HARRIS, who is the "first African-American chairman of the 90-year-old Boys & Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay." He is "helping the organization chart new initiatives and extend its mission." Harris said Lightning Owner JEFF VINIK sends a "clear message to his staff that he encourages and wants to see you involved in community activities." Harris: "I’m a Tampa native. The point is not lost on me that they see me as one of the few African-American executives in this community, and with a brand like the Lightning, I’m challenged to say, 'How can I utilize it to help?' So one of the things that drives me is that it’s professionally supported" (TAMPA BAY TIMES, 1/20)....Astros CF GEORGE SPRINGER on Saturday married fiancee CHARLISE CASTRO (HOUSTONCHRONICLE.com, 1/21).

IN MEMORY: Ravens Dir of Ticket Sales & Hospitality MIKE BURKE died Friday at 39 after battling lung cancer for more than two years. He leaves behind his wife, MICHELE, and four children. Burke was diagnosed with stage IV terminal lung cancer in '15. He joined the Ravens in '00 (Ravens)....An autopsy released Friday showed that late MLBer ROY HALLADAY had "evidence of morphine, amphetamine, and zolpidem in his system in November when he fatally crashed his single-engine plane into the Gulf of Mexico" (PHILLY.com, 1/19).