Jack Johnson's family torn apart

ByScott Burnside Via <a Href="http://espn.go.com/" Title="espn" Class="espn_sc_byline">espn </a>
November 20, 2014, 2:43 PM

&#151; -- It's often hard to reconcile what you believed to be the truth for years from what you later find out is the real truth.

So is the story of Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson.

The hockey world was abuzz Thursday as the explosive story of the financial wreck that Johnson's personal life has become was reported by veteran Columbus beat writer Aaron Portzline -- and later confirmed by ESPN.com.

Documents also obtained by ESPN.com and information provided by those who are familiar with the Johnson situation confirm Portzline's meticulous outline of a young player whose own parents led him to financial ruin.

Johnson filed for bankruptcy, and documents allege that his mother Tina Johnson borrowed at least $15 million against her son's future earnings and that Jack Johnson's current worth is less than $50,000 with debt exceeding $10 million, according to the report.

The relationship between Jack Johnson and his parents has been severed, according to the Dispatch.

It is all true, one source familiar with the situation told ESPN.com.

Before he signed his current seven-year, $30.5 million deal, Jack Johnson parted ways with highly respected agent Pat Brisson and turned over power of attorney to his mother. In light of recent events, it would not be at all surprising to see Johnson return to Brisson as a client in the coming days.

All of this is both shocking and more than a little sad, not just the financial mess but the personal toll this must have taken and will no doubt continue to take on Jack Johnson, his younger brother Ken and the rest of the family.

I first met Jack Johnson at his parents' home near Ann Arbor, Michigan, a few months before he would be drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes with the third overall pick in the 2005 draft.

His parents, Jack Sr. and Tina, had moved to Michigan to be close to Johnson when he joined the U.S. National Team Development Program after attending hockey prep school Shattuck-St. Mary's in Minnesota, where one of his close friends was Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby.

Crosby is represented by Brisson.

Before that, the Johnsons quit their jobs and moved to Minnesota instead of having Jack live on campus at Shattuck.

The Johnsons appeared to be a tight-knit family, with Jack Johnson doting on younger brother Kenny. Even at that young age, it seemed obvious that Jack Johnson was aware of the sacrifices his parents had made to pave a smooth route to hockey success.

"I think about it all the time," Johnson told ESPN.com in 2005. "If all this stuff works out, it's all because my parents got up at 4 in the morning to take me to skate before school started. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for them. I owe so much to them I'll never be able to make it up."

Prophetic? More than a little.

A few years later, I talked with Tina Johnson at the Vancouver Olympics in advance of the gold-medal game between Canada and the United States, for whom Jack Johnson was playing.

"Amazing is just a word that falls off your lips pretty often around here," she told ESPN.com at the time. "It's just such a joyful experience to be here together and nerve-racking at the same time."

Jack Johnson said at the time that he thought of his parents and his younger brother as he prepared for the first Olympic tournament game.

"They said there were a lot of emotions involved," Jack Johnson said in the days leading up to the gold-medal game, ultimately won by Canada. "They thought about all the 5 a.m. mornings, going to the rink, and actually I did too getting dressed. You kind of run through that -- everything that you went through to get here all the way back to when you're 5 years old to when you're 23 sitting in the Olympics. You can't help but think about things like that.

"To be able to share this with my family is real special. They're the reason I'm here, really. Without them, I wouldn't be here."

Now, less than five years later, his relationship with his parents appears to be on the rocks as Jack Johnson tries to rebuild his financial future.

While Jack Johnson's situation would seem to be a rare one, it is also a cautionary tale for all young athletes.

The National Hockey League Players' Association includes two financial components to its annual rookie education program. Young players are addressed every year by financial experts who provide advice about diversifying their investments and ensuring that their investments aren't handled by one single source.

There is also a part of the process that involves testimonials from players who share some of the mistakes or pitfalls they encountered in their lives.

The NHL also has a financial component to its annual security address to players, while the union's financial educational component is reinforced during annual visits with individual teams.

Still, it's obvious that people like Jack Johnson sometimes fall through the cracks, and the price they pay, on a number of levels, can be a steep one.

Talking with Jack Johnson last spring during the playoffs, he appeared to be in a good place with his career and was upbeat about his future, in spite of being left off the U.S. roster for the Sochi Olympics. He had embraced his trade from Los Angeles to Columbus as part of the Jeff Carter deal in 2012.

A fan favorite, Jack Johnson was enjoying his role in helping redefine a Blue Jackets team that had known nothing of playoff success as they pushed Pittsburgh -- and his pal Crosby -- to six games in a rollicking back-and-forth first-round series.

"I don't think I've changed at all since I've been here," Johnson said. "I'm just the same guy, I think, same guy that came out of college. I just ended up in a different city, just different place, different atmosphere. It's worked out great for me. I couldn't be happier here, and it's been a great fit for me."

If only his personal and financial life had found such a solid foundation.

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