The volunteer builder category is reserved for those individuals who give of their time and talents to ensure that opportunities exist for others. The late Jim Johnson truly fit that bill, serving as a driving force behind numerous sports organizations and local groups, from the time of his arrival in Thunder Bay in the early 1970s, to his passing in 2008.
Moving from Toronto to Thunder Bay he quickly got involved in his adopted hometown, serving as a coach in the minor ranks and as a director with junior hockey organizations. Throughout the 1980s and 90s he coached his way up through the minor ranks to the AAA level, helping lead teams to provincial honours, and coaching the Thunder Bay Bearcats to a bronze medal at the 1988 Air Canada Cup National Midget championships. A certified instructor, he provided NCCP coaching clinics for over a decade, throughout the country and as far away as England.
In the late 1980s he began working on the formation of a hockey league that would allow local players the opportunity to stay at home, and still have the chance to compete at the highest level. In 1989, his dream became a reality with the formation of the Thunder Bay AAA Kings. Serving as their first president, he remained active with the league as a coach, director and long-time supporter. The legacy of his vision remains to this day with a number of Kings alumni going on to enjoy full collegiate scholarships and pro hockey careers, with many of them making it to the NHL, including his two sons Greg and Ryan.
Another legacy of this builder of sport, is the Thunder Bay Tournament Centre, which he helped create during the mid 1990s, and helped promote as the site of NHL development camps. In 2000, he was approached by Lakehead University and asked to help lead the charge in re-introducing a varsity hockey program to the school. Becoming the programs lead investor he encouraged others to follow suit, with CIS hockey returning to the area for the 2001-02 season. Fittingly, Jim became the first President and Director of Hockey Operations for Thunderwolves Hockey, a position he held until 2005.
Jim's contributions to Thunder Bay were not just limited to sports, as he was also active with a number of groups, always working hard to make his community the best that it could be. To see the legacy left behind by this exceptional builder, one need only look at the incredible number of citizens, athletes and fans who continue to benefit from the many projects he initiated through his forward thinking approach and unwavering dedication.
Inducted to the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in September 24, 2016