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USA hockey executive Jim Johannson died of heart disease

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) Heart disease caused a longtime USA Hockey executive’s death less than three weeks before the Pyeongchang Games.

An autopsy report released Tuesday by the El Paso County Coroner says that 53-year-old Jim Johannson’s death was natural and caused by heart disease.

According to USA Hockey, Johannson died in his sleep on Jan. 21 at his home in Colorado Springs.

Johannson worked for USA Hockey for decades and at the time of his death he was general manager of the U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team. USA Hockey officials have said Johannson relished the chance to put together the men’s team that competed in South Korea.

Eeli Tolvanen scores highlight-reel goal, continues to excite Predators fans (Video)

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One of these days Eeli Tolvanen will finally hit the ice with the Nashville Predators. The 2017 first-round pick is currently with Jokerit of the KHL, but since the team is in the middle of the Gagarin Cup playoffs, fans in Music City will have to wait a little longer before he arrives in North America.

Tolvanen gave hockey fans everywhere another taste of his talents on Friday with a beautiful solo effort — his second goal of the game — in overtime to close out Jokerit’s opening round series against Sochi:

The 18-year-old Finnish winger has said it is his intention to sign a contract with the Predators whenever Jokerit’s season is over. General manager David Poile echoed those sentiments recently, according to The Tennessean.

“If we ever get Tolvanen, and he’s good enough to play and it’s this year, that’ll be great,” Poile said. “But in the future, when I look at our depth chart, Tolvanen certainly is going to get every opportunity to play on our top two lines. That’s just another addition that should pan out really good for us.”

Should they advance to the Gagarin Cup Final, it’s possible that Tolvanen won’t arrive until mid-to-late April, which could potentially be late in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs or early in second round. Given what the kid has produced so far at his age, his addition this season could serve as a positive injection into a Predators team that has eyes again on a deep playoff run.

Tolvanen scored 19 goals and recorded 36 points in 49 games for Jokerit this season, the best numbers for a player 19 and younger in KHL history, per Elite Prospects. Representing Finland in the PyeongChang Olympics last month, he finished tied for second in scoring with three goals and nine points as they reached the quarterfinals of the tournament before being knocked out by Canada.

He’s given fans plenty to get excited about, and Tolvanen is still developing and has big dreams.

“I’m too far away from them, they’re elite snipers. When I was young, I dreamt about shooting like Ovechkin,” he said in an interview with the KHL’s website in August. “Hope that one day I could be at his level.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

U.S. women’s hockey players enjoying homecoming after gold medal win

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Twenty years after a cereal box changed her life, Meghan Duggan is pictured on one.

When the United States won the gold medal in 1998 at the first Olympics with women’s hockey, an 11-year-old Duggan met Gretchen Ulion and got the forward to autograph her Wheaties box and still has it in her parents’ house and a copy of their photo together with sister Katelyn on her phone. After winning gold at the Pyeongchang Games, the 30-year-old captain is featured on her own cereal box as the attention flows for the latest U.S. women’s hockey champions.

”We’re just taking in the win,” Duggan said at the NHL Stadium Series game at Navy between the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs. ”We were out in L.A. on ‘Ellen’ and coming and being a part of all these big NHL games and things like that, we’ve got some stuff coming up in New York City next week, which will be really fun.”

Appearing on the ”Today” show and Ellen DeGeneres’ show and being feted at Los Angeles Kings and Tampa Bay Lightning games and then outdoors at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium is an impressive victory tour. The next step is for Duggan, shootout hero Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson and their teammates to extend the traditional 15 minutes of fame and sustain the kind of long-lasting stardom that soccer player Mia Hamm, basketball player Lisa Leslie and other previous U.S. Olympic gold medal and World Cup winners were able to generate.

A cereal box is a nice start, and Duggan and several teammates have endorsement deals with Dunkin’ Donuts with more opportunities on the horizon.

”Some of us that are out of college can capitalize on the opportunities,” Monique Lamoureux-Morando said. ”Hopefully exposure for one of us is exposure for all of us and it helps grow the game. If someone gets an amazing opportunity that a lot of people are a part of and get to see, then it benefits all of us.”

Agent Brant Feldman, who represents Duggan and the Lamoureux twins, is trying to get his clients mainstream attention beyond hockey. The U.S. gold medalists are very well-known around hockey, taking photos with Navy Midshipmen and youth players and drawing chants of ”U-S-A! U-S-A!” from tailgating fans in the parking lot Saturday before the NHL Stadium Series game.

U.S. players earned headlines in a non-Olympic year when they threatened to boycott the world championships on home ice and came to an agreement on a better contract with USA Hockey. The deal allows players to make up to $129,000 in Olympic years when combined with contributions from the U.S. Olympic Committee – the kind of living wage previous generations of players couldn’t earn.

”It’s a great step for our sport,” Lamoureux-Davidson said. ”That’s going to help support our team. … Sponsorships, if those come, that’s great and that’s supplemental income, but what we were able to create with USA Hockey is the biggest step.”

The next step for players could include speaking engagements along some more endorsement deals. But they hope for a bigger change: one professional women’s league in North America instead of the competing Canadian Women’s Hockey League and National Women’s Hockey League.

”They currently don’t work together,” Lamoureux-Morando said. ”It’s two completely different entities. So I think moving forward, there needs to be some sort of collaboration, whether they merge or start working together. There needs to move forward in that direction.”

It appears that’s a cause that players want to use their platform to promote. They’d also like to spur further growth of women’s hockey across the U.S. like Ulion and the 1998 team did.

”That team, those girls, lit the fire in my heart to want to compete for my country and to want to play on this team,” Duggan said. ”Fast-forward 20 years to have the opportunity to really inspire the next generation or to have little girls see that photo or see that Kellogg’s cereal box or see what our team did and want to dream big, it fills my heart. It’s why I am who I am and why I’m here today is because of those girls, and we definitely want to have that impact on the next generation.”

Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/SWhyno

Datsyuk: Olympic gold medal means more than Stanley Cup

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Seconds after the Russians won their first Olympic hockey gold medal since 1992, Pavel Datsyuk couldn’t contain his joy at what he considers the peak of his career.

Even though Datsyuk won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings in 2002 and 2008, the 39-year-old said capturing gold at the Olympics in his fifth try was his greatest accomplishment, even in a tournament without NHL players and even when called “Team Olympic Athlete From Russia” because of sanctions over state-sponsored doping.

“When you play for your country and I win this medal, this special time, it’s more important,” Datsyuk said. “I have accomplished my dream. Now I have no dream.”

Datsyuk, who took home a bronze medal in Salt Lake City in 2002, had six assists to help the Russians capture Pyeongchang gold as captain and one of their best players.

“There are a lot of nice feelings now in my heart, but at the same time I can’t believe it yet.”

Datsyuk went home to Russia in the summer of 2016 citing family reasons after putting up 314 goals and 604 assists for 918 points in 953 regular-season games over 14 seasons with the Red Wings. Datsyuk, who was the oldest men’s hockey player in the Olympics, still hasn’t decided whether to retire after this season.

He accomplished his dream with the help of Ilya Kovalchuk, who went back to Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League despite being just three seasons into a $100 million, 15-year contract with the New Jersey Devils. Kovalchuk had five goals and two assists and was voted tournament MVP.

Kovalchuk and Nikita Gusev, who led Russia and the tournament with 12 points including two goals in the gold-medal game, were great. Datsyuk was Russia’s captain and leader.

“Our hearts almost stopped beating,” Datsyuk said of the back-and-forth final, “but we recovered and the team showed character.”

Brian Gionta goes from U.S. Olympic team to Boston Bruins

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Brian Gionta was hoping to use the 2018 Winter Olympics as an opportunity to showcase his game to NHL teams after not being re-signed by the Buffalo Sabres last season.

On Sunday, the Boston Bruins felt he could help them down the stretch and signed the 39-year-old forward to a contract for the remainder of the season. Gionta will earn a pro-rated $700,000 salary.

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has been busy. He’s traded for Nick Holden to bolster his blue line, acquired Rick Nash to strengthen his forward group and now added Gionta for some depth up front. “If there is an area we can continue to supplement our group, we will do that,” he said on Saturday.

[Rick Nash addition shows Bruins loading up for Stanley Cup run]

In order to play in the postseason, Gionta, who’s no stranger to Boston having helped deliver a national title to Boston College in 2001, needed to sign a contract by Monday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline.

Despite spending all summer as an unrestricted free agent, Gionta still hadn’t shut the door on the NHL. “If the right situation came across, I’d have to think long and hard about it, for sure,” he told me in November.

Gionta went pointless in five games in PyeongChang while captaining the Americans, who were bounced in the quarterfinals by the Czech Republic. He looked very much his 39 years on the big ice, but maybe a return to the NHL could rejuvenate him? He did score 15 goals and recorded 35 points in 82 games with the Buffalo Sabres in 2016-17.

It’s a low-risk move for the Bruins. If it doesn’t work out, Gionta’s not an anchor on their salary cap and they can part ways. If he can contribute, it was worth the lottery ticket for Sweeney.

MORE: Pro Hockey Talk 2018 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.