Streatham stalwart Joe Johnston’s final league match was an emotional affair, but he’s adamant it is not the last the club will see of him.
The 37-year-old Streatham captain spent his whole career wearing the Streatham jersey after making his senior debut as a teenager.
But he has decided this campaign would be last and he could not hide his emotions after the 6-4 home loss to Chelmsford Chieftains.
“I was pretty emotional,” he said.
“It was a bit of a strange feeling really just sat in the changing room and I was pretty quiet.
“I had a few beers and a few tears and it’s difficult because you realise that’s your last ever league game but at the same time there’s still the play-offs so I wasn’t as emotional as I will be after the final game.”
Even though it was an almost impossible decision to make, Johnston said he is ready for the next chapter in his life.
“I turned 37 last week so I take it as a compliment when people seem quite surprised that I’m retiring.
“My personal life is changing slightly. I’m getting a new job which means I won’t be able to commit to the level that’s required.
“I don’t want to because I love hockey and I’ve been doing it pretty much my whole life but it’s one of those things that comes to everyone and this is my time.”
Johnston isn’t the only player Streatham will lose at the end of the season as the experienced Liam Rasmussen announced his retirement before the Chelmsford game.
Rasmussen has played 11 seasons for the club but Johnston isn’t concerned about the effect that loss of experience could have.
“The club is always bigger than any players so I’m not worried about the future just because I’m going and Liam’s going,” he added.
“It may be different but the club will go on and I’m sure with Jeremy Cornish in charge, who’s one of, if not, the best coach in our league, things will prosper for the club for sure.”
At the close of the regular season, Streatham finished third and now face sixth-placed Solent Devils over two legs in the play-offs on March 25 and 26.
And Johnston is aware he needs to turn his focus back to on ice matters, with Devils having won five straight games before losing to Invicta Dynamos last weekend.
“Form is irrelevant really as play-offs become very similar to something like the FA Cup,” he said.
“Form goes out the window and there’s an edge to it. It’s do or die.
“In the league if you lose you have another game but with this if you lose and that’s you done – some of us will be done forever so it’s very important.”
Johnston may be retiring but he’s certain he’ll be unable to resist the urge to get back involved with the club that’s so close to his heart.
“There’s no way I’m going to be able to stay away from it,” he said.
“It’s hard to talk about it at the moment because there are still games to play so that’s the focus but I’ve had some chats.
“It’s all been positive and the management have kept it open for me for what I can do.
“There’s options for me, I don’t know long term what I’ll be doing but I’ll be involved somehow.”
Featured image of Joe Johnston courtesy of Rick Webb, with thanks