Zooming in Sochi: Rebecca Johnston’s Sudbury Hockey Family
When Bob Johnston and his wife Colleen land in Sochi on Friday after a 20-hour trip, he’ll be checking out the Russian airport with a practiced eye.
Unlike almost every other person on this planet, he finds airports extremely interesting — at least from a business point of view.
Johnston, 55, is the CEO of the Greater Sudbury Airport.
The couple, who grew up and married in Nova Scotia, have six children, all of whom are exceptional hockey players.
Rebecca, 24, in the middle, is the one with an Olympic gold medal and almost certainly the winner of another medal.
In fact, it’s so likely the Canada’s women’s hockey team will reach the final on Feb. 20, with the U.S. an an opponent, that her parents plan to be in Sochi only for the last week of the Games, missing most of the preliminary matches (including Wednesday’s, when Canada beat the U.S. 3-2).
Rebecca, who plays forward, has already scored against Finland and Sweden in the early rounds.
Rebecca was the second youngest member of the team in Vancouver.
“Now,” he says, “she’s a little more of a veteran, almost like a leader. She still had to work to make the team, but she’s had the confidence to enjoy it this time, not to be stressed every day.”
The six Johnston siblings, all close in age, could be ideal subjects for a nature vs. nurture study.
Bob and Colleen are both very athletic and love outdoor sports. They passed this on to their children, perhaps genetically, but certainly in the way they were raised.
“We had five kids age 7 and under,” he recalls. “We’d pack them all up and throw them on the ice and let them beat up on each other.”
You could say it was ideal training for the NHL (indeed, Rebecca got a roughing penalty in Wednesday’s preliminary against the U.S.), but Johnston says instead, drily, “It was a form of babysitting.”
Their sixth child, Steven was born a little later, when number five, Jacob, was 28 months old and presumably already scoring goals on a regular basis (when he wasn’t benched for roughing.)
There were lots of other sports, too, but there was no cable TV until the oldest was in high school. That would be Katie, who went on to play hockey and varsity soccer for Harvard.
And as parents, he says, “We don’t measure our children by their accomplishments, Olympics or anything else. Their value system is what’s most important.”
Although the Johnstons are looking forward to Sochi, Bob says, “I don’t think anything could top Vancouver — our country, friends and family there, ease of getting there and watching the Games.”
Arrangements for Sochi have been “a horrendous process — visa, special passes for the hockey games, travel. That part was a real pain.
“In Vancouver, we did the whole city scene, the restaurants and things to see there. In Sochi, we want to enjoy the whole Olympic moment.”