Learning the game of hockey while growing up in Fort Frances during the 1920s Johnny 'Red' Coward's affiliation with the game lasted through to the 1960s. Johnny was involved with a variety of Fort Frances teams during the 1930s including the Cadets, Tigers, Vics and Quakers, as well as playing with the Duluth Hornets and Minneapolis Millers.
In 1935 a former Fort Frances resident and teammate of Johnny's, Percy Nicklin, was coaching the Richmond Hawks in England. Remembering Johnny from the early days, and the fact that Johnny had been born in England, Nicklin invited him to join the Hawks. When England was picking their team to compete in the 1936 Olympics Johnny tried out for the team and was selected.
An outstanding left winger known for his effective back checking Johnny contributed to England's 1936 Olympic, World and European hockey titles. After two more years with the Richmond Hawks, Johnny returned to Fort Frances where he joined the Fort Frances Maple Leafs Senior Team. From 1940-45, he played with the Canadian Army Hockey team while stationed in Winnipeg.
Upon his return home, Johnny took an active interest in promoting Fort Frances hockey. Coaching minor teams, serving as a member of the Community Memorial Arena management board and serving as the Fort Frances representative for the Thunder Bay Amateur Hockey Association, Johnny passed away in 1989, leaving behind a legacy of hockey involvement in Fort Frances and northwestern Ontario.
Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, September 28, 1991