Johnson, who skated in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins, died in late October after his throat was sliced open by a skate during a pro game in England.
Back in Sweden with the Red Wings this past week, the memories were flooding back even move vividly for Veleno. It was there were he and Johnson met and grew close. They were teammates in the SHL with the Malmo Redhawks during the 2020-21 hockey season.
— EP Rinkside (@EPRinkside) January 8, 2021
“It is a huge tragedy and a shock what happened,” Veleno told Swedish website Aftonbladet.se. “It is completely insane to think that it has actually happened, it is impossible to take in or understand.
“At first I walked around thinking it couldn’t be right. It was so sad.”
Veleno Fondly Remembers Christmas In Sweden
That season in Sweden, Veleno would finish fourth in team scoring with 11-9-20 totals. Johnson’s final tally was 7-5-12 numbers in 21 games.
Johnson’s arrival in Sweden came during the season on Dec. 23. Knowing that they had no family in the country, Malmo sporting director Patrik Sylvegård extended an invitation to Veleno and Johnson to join his family at their home for Christmas Eve.
“Patrik Sylvegård is really a person I like,” Veleno said. “It was very important to him that we came to Christmas dinner at their house. He did everything to help us and that we would be comfortable. Adam Johnson had landed in Sweden just the day before.”
.@SHLse teams will wear this commemorative badge during Thursdays' & Saturdays' games to honor Adam Johnson who passed away last Sunday following a tragic on-ice accident while representing the Nottingham @PanthersIHC. Adam played 21 games with the @Malmo_Redhawks in 2020-21. pic.twitter.com/G7weusTLK1
— EuropeanHockeyClubs (@EHCAlliance) November 2, 2023
Veleno made a point to reach out and get in touch with Sylvegård while the Red Wings were playing in Sweden.
“It’s such a nice memory,” he said of that Christmas in Sweden.
The tragic loss of his friend Johnson was a stark reminder to Veleno that nothing in life in guaranteed.
“I regret that we didn’t take the opportunity to have more contact (with Johnson) after the time in Malmö, because this shows that you never know when it’s too late,” Veleno said.