By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Steve Johnson is a typical Minnesota born-and-raised hockey player.

He ascended from Minnetonka High School to the USHL, and then to the University of Minnesota.

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“It was awesome. I enjoyed my time there. Played all four years there,” Steve said. “[My Gopher teammates are] going to be my friends for the rest of my life.”

Steve then moved on to pro hockey, and is currently playing in the NHL for Cleveland, an affiliate of Columbus.

“It’s crazy. It’s a different lifestyle,” Steve said. “Instead of, you know, guys that are your age, you have got guys that are on your team that are, you know, older. They’re fathers, you know, they have families and stuff like that.”

When the season was halted, Steve came home to work on his hobby that may be his profession after hockey: His private pilot license.

“I’ve always had an interest in it. I went to the University of Minnesota. They don’t offer aviation there, so after college I was like maybe I should, you know, dive into this a little bit more,” Steve said.

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He is inspired by his father, Scott Johnson, who is a 30-year pilot for Delta Airlines, and this is part of their bond.

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“You always want your kids, spend time with your kids, or at least so they’re halfway interested in what you do,” Scott said. “So it was really fun, and we’re kind of getting back into getting into airplanes together and spending some time, so that’s the best part about it.”

Steve has found what his father already knew: When you elevate into the skies and you’re behind the controls, it’s a rare feeling.

“I immediately fell in love with it. I just love being up there and being in control and seeing everything below you,” Steve said. “I kind of became a nerd when it comes to aviation.”

So he makes the most of his unexpected time off, getting an instruments rating, and being reminded that there is more to life than hockey. And when you can do it with your father, it’s a passion well spent.

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“I think my dad and I’ve been up probably five times now since I’ve been home, just him and I, just piloting the skies and having fun,” Steve said. “I have an instructor, but [my dad] teaches me, too, so we kind of get ahead of the curve that way.”

Mike Max