The hockey world has been taught a couple of vitally important lessons this week.
From Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray, who is suffering from terminal cancer, we’ve learned of the life-saving potential of colonoscopies. It’s an uncomfortable thought, especially for men who tend to shrug off medical care for anything short of limb reattachment, but the preventative value of this simple procedure is enormous.
And then we learned that if you make your living in this game, you need to get yourself a good agent. It’s advice that would have saved Jack Johnson from bankruptcy.
The story of the financial ruination of the Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman that was told this morning by Dispatch writer Aaron Portzline is both shocking and heartbreaking. Johnson, currently playing the fourth season of a seven-year, $30 million deal, has less than $50,000 in assets and more than $10 million in debt, the result, Johnson says, of “picking the wrong people who led me down the wrong path.”
Those people, according to Portzline, were Johnson’s own parents.
Earlier in his career Johnson had Pat Brisson, one of the best agents in the game, looking after his affairs. But the two parted ways in 2008 and Johnson signed a power of attorney that turned over full control of his finances to his mother, Tina Johnson.
In hindsight, the decision to put millions of dollars into inexperienced hands was incredibly naive. But these were his parents. The two people in the world he trusted the most. Put into the same situation, there are plenty of us who might have done the same thing.
Fortunately, most of us don’t have parents like Johnson’s. The picture of them that’s painted by Portzline’s research is beyond ugly. Instead of making safe, conventional investments that would protect the financial future of their son, the pair blew through past and future earnings via a complicated series of risky loans at high interest rates, defaults on which resulted in massive fees, higher interest rates and three lawsuits against Johnson.
There are also reports of lavish spending on houses and travel, leaving Johnson not just broke but essentially working for nothing as garnishments swallowed his massive bi-monthly paychecks.
“I’ve seen lots of instances of parents riding their kid’s coattails around,” a league source told Portzline. “I’ve never seen a case as ugly as this one, where the parents took such advantage of their kid.”
Johnson has since surrounded himself with competent attorneys and financial experts who actually have his best interests in mind. Assuming relief will be provided in bankruptcy, he has a chance to climb out of this hole, save his future and maybe put his focus back on playing hockey.
But his relationship with his parents? That’s a tragic casualty of this mess. And one that no court can piece back together.