War vet also a piece of local hockey history

He waged his battles from the air and on the ice, and registered some memorable victories in both arenas.
Comrade E.A. “Doc” Johnson was one of the many Fort Frances natives who did their part to further the fight for freedom in the Second World War, serving overseas for three years as a navigator in the Allied bomber command based out of Yorkshire, England.
Upon his return home, he traded his flying boots for hockey skates, and further established a legacy for himself as part of the 1952 Fort Frances Canadians team that brought home the Allan Cup national senior men’s hockey championship.
“That team was made up of a bunch of guys that grew up playing on outdoor rinks,” Johnson recalled Monday afternoon after he had taken part in that morning’s Remembrance Day services at the cenotaph here.
“When we won the Allan Cup, we did it without a sponsor. We won it strictly by ourselves,” he noted.
The ’52 Canadians were inducted as a team into the Northwestern Ontario Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984, which was fitting, considering it was unity which Johnson pointed to as the key to the squad’s success.
“It was a definite advantage that we had played together for years and years, both before the war and after,” he said.
“We were not the best players in the world, but each year [in the Allan Cup playdowns], we seemed to go one step farther,” Johnson remarked. “When we hit Edmonton in 1952, we knew we had the chance to win it.”
The achievement was even more remarkable, considering the Canadians had to fight back from a 3-0 deficit in the best-of-seven Ontario playdowns against the Fort William Beavers just to get past the provincial stage.
After downing the Edmonton Oil Kings, Johnson and his mates toppled the Stratford Indians in the championship series, with the title being clinched right here in town.
Johnson would rather avoid being put up on any kind of pedestal, if it’s all the same to him, though.
“We didn’t think of ourselves as any kind of heroes,” said Johnson, who turns 80 later this month. “We were just a bunch of young bucks that got along together both in the service and on the hockey team.”
That humility extended back to Johnson’s return from the titanic conflict that changed the course of history.
“There was no big celebration,” he reminisced. “We melded right back into the community the way we were a part of it when we left it. It wasn’t disappointing to us. We didn’t think anything of it.”
Johnson, who earned his nickname during a First Aid training exercise when he was in the Boy Scouts, stayed in the game after his playing days were over, coaching locally at the Midget level for almost 15 years.
“A lot of the kids I coached turned out to be pretty good kids, becoming doctors and lawyers and things like that,” he said.
“I don’t bother too much with the game any more, though. [In the NHL], there are so many teams now, everyone’s a stranger. And in minor hockey, the parents are involved too much.
“Let the kids play.”
While his passion for the sport may have faded with time, his love of his hometown will never evaporate.
“The number of people per capita from this community that signed up to take part in the war couldn’t be touched by anybody else,” Johnson said.
“That’s the kind of people this town is made of.”