By: Bill Schammert & Hannah Paczkowski
Lincoln Stars president Jim Pflug said he'd describe their former head coach Chad Johnson as a warm, kind-hearted friend.
"People who knew Chad knew him as just a fun–loving guy and somebody that would do anything for you," he said.
Johnson was found dead after being hit by a train in Fargo on Monday night. Fargo police say his body was found on an abandoned, industrial portion of the tracks.
His car was discovered nearby, but authorities are still trying to piece together exactly what happened.
"Those are tragic situations anytime somebody dies in our community, especially somebody in a situation where that's a tragic death involving being struck by a train," Fargo Lt. Joel Vettel said.
At Tuesday night's practice, players took time to smile, trading in hockey pucks for tennis balls on the ice.
"He would want us to be happy, to celebrate his life," team captain, Zach Frye, said.
Frye played under Johnson his last two seasons as head coach of the Lincoln Stars.
Johnson started working for the Stars in 1996 as assistant coach under his brother, Steve. After three years under his brother, he spent the next decade serving in several capacities throughout the country in junior hockey.
After serving as assistant coach in 2008 for the Fargo Force, he took over the Lincoln Stars in 2010 as head coach, a position he held for three years.
The Lincoln Stars announced Jimmy McGroarty as head coach and general manager in September after Johnson resigned.
"Chad left for personal and health reasons and we fully supported his decision to do that, feeling that it was in his best interest in the long term to take care of himself and put things in proper perspective," Pflug said.
For players, their former coach will be missed.
"He's a great guy, always came to the rink with a great attitude, a smile on his face. He was a funny guy and fun to be around," Frye said.
Our partner ABC station in Fargo, WDAY, caught up with some of Johnson's closest friends Tuesday afternoon.
"Never met a guy that knew as many people as he did, he was well-liked and loved by everybody," friend Chad Skarperud said. "I know of many hockey players he coached that have just nothing but good things to say and he was just a very good guy."
Dave Noah had just had lunch with Johnson earlier on Monday. He says the two talked about hockey, hunting and Thanksgiving plans. Now all he has are memories of his good friend.
"You know, it's funny, but even when you say the name Chad Johnson, it brings a smile to my face," Noah said. "The guy could come into the locker room and just light up the world. He just was a good, good-hearted person."
Johnson was only 43 years old.