Larry Johnston was a tough stay-at-home defenceman whose NHL career lasted over 300 games because he was competitive and played within his means. He suited up for three different big league franchises, providing grit and leadership for each one.
Born in Kitchener, Ontario, Johnston played junior with the Waterloo Warriors and was originally the property of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He never played with Toronto but gained experience in the minors five seasons. One of these teams was the AHL's Springfield Indians who acquired his rights in return for future NHL goalie Bruce Gamble.
Johnston became the property of the L.A. when they purchased the Springfield franchise in 1967. Johnston played four games with the expansion Kings in 1967-68 but was returned to the minors. In 1969 he was named the most valuable player in Springfield and also led the AHL in penalty minutes in 1968 and 1969.
He was acquired by the Detroit Red Wings two years later and returned to the NHL as a regular for three years beginning in 1971-72. In July 1974 he signed with the Michigan Stags of the WHA and played there until the team folded late in the 1974-75 season.
After a rash of injuries late in 1974-75, the Kansas City Scouts turned to Johnston to add muscle and organization to their young defense. He remained with the franchise when it relocated to Denver, Colorado in 1976 and suited up for 25 games. After playing the last half of the 1976-77 season with the Maine Nordiques of the North American Hockey League, the burly defender retired.