By Christine Troyke
Gwinnett Daily Post
DULUTH, Ga. It’s not an award for the nicest guy — though off the ice, Kris Goodjohn would still qualify.
The ECHL Sportsman of the Year is presented to the player judged to have exhibited the best combination of sportsmanship and ability.
This season, the league’s coaches selected Goodjohn for the honor. Few would disagree.
“I struggle to find three guys in this league that I would give this to,” Gwinnett head coach Jeff Pyle said. “I couldn’t think of three guys in this league that score a lot, that have that character and those qualities.
“It’s self-discipline. He lives by what I coach. Those guys will go and play hard, but they get their nose dirty and go within the whistles. That’s the way the game’s supposed to be played.”
Goodjohn, in his second season with the Gladiators, is the consummate professional. He’s not a pushover. He just knows how to keep a cool head — which can be a rare quality on the ice.
One of the league’s top point-getters and a crafty play-maker, Goodjohn gets the attention of team’s best defenders. And they’ll do lots of things to try and keep him off the puck. No easy task.
Goodjohn has 69 points and just 20 penalty minutes in 69 games this season. His 48 assists on the season rank sixth in the ECHL while he is one of four scorers on the Gladiators with 20 or more goals on the year.
“He works hard every shift,” said Mike Stathopoulos, a fellow forward in his rookie season with Gwinnett. “Every practice he’s out there working hard, and a lot of the guys follow him. He’s one of the leaders on the team.
“Guys look up to him and his work ethic. He does a lot more than put up points.”
Goodjohn holds the ECHL season record for most consecutive games with at least one assist in eight straight games from Nov. 17 through Dec. 5. The 26-year-old has 17 multiple-point games this season and has posted three or more assists in four games this season for Gwinnett.
As a rookie in 2003-04, Goodjohn scored 56 points off of 19 goals and 37 assists in 71 regular season games, In the playoffs, he tied for the team lead with 12 points in 13 games, helping the Gladiators to the conference finals.
And besides all of that, he really is a nice guy.
Genuine and ever so likable, Goodjohn is aptly named and fittingly honored.
“I don’t think it takes away from Goodie at all,” Stathopoulos said. “He goes and he plays hard. He plays tough by going in the corners and doing his job. That’s why he’s had such a great year. “We’re all happy for him. It’s by no means a dubious honor.”