Anyone who wants to follow the progress of raised-in-Lillooet hockey player Matthew Johnston is going to need a globe or a world map.
Matthew, who starred as a centre for the Lillooet Atom Pistons, is playing right wing for Canada in a tour of Europe that takes his Canada Cowboys team to Bratislava in Slovakia, Prague in the Czech Republic for the Czech Challenge Cup and then on to Pilsen, also in the Czech Republic. The team plays a tournament in Bratislava as a warm-up for the games in Prague.
After a grueling week-long training camp, the Cowboys players elected Matthew to be their captain for the tour. Proud dad Terry Johnston told the News that’s “quite an honour” since Matthew is one of the youngest players, if not the youngest player, on the Cowboys team. Members of the team were born in either 2003 or 2004. The Cowboys are a team of elite players from western Canada – most are from Alberta or Saskatchewan - and Matthew is the only player from B.C.
He has promised his dad that he will never stop hustling to set a good example even if the Canadian squad encounters very tough competition. Most of the teams the Cowboys will be playing are club teams with players who have been selected to represent their clubs and have apparently been playing together since kindergarten. One of their opponents will be a Russian team that has not lost a game in three years.
The Cowboys team flew out July 28 on KLM Airlines to Amsterdam, then on to Germany and then the Czech Republic.
During his years in Lillooet minor hockey, Matthew Johnston played for the Piston Atoms where he was the leading scorer with 120 goals and eight assists in 26 games. In five of those games the Gretzky Rule was applied, meaning Matthew was limited to three goals per game. He was also an affiliated player for Lillooet’s Peewee team, where he was also the leading scorer with 27 goals and six assists in 12 games.
After Lillooet Minor Hockey wound up its season this spring, he was an integral part and one of the leading players on the Chilliwack Jr. Chiefs Spring hockey team, which didn’t keep scoring stats. Matthew also played on a second spring hockey team – the Okanagan Allstars B team - when Lillooet goaltender and Okanagan Allstar Joey Isaac asked if Matthew could join the Okanagan skaters. Joey was one of his best pals in Lillooet Minor Hockey. Although Matthew joined the Okanagan team-mid season, he still managed to finish the season as his team’s top goal scorer and assist leader.
The Johnston family moved to the Okanagan this summer, so Lillooet’s loss is Salmon Arm’s gain.