Bob Johnson (ice hockey, born 1931)
March 4, 1931|
Minneapolis, MN, USA
|Died||November 26, 1991
Colorado Springs, CO, USA
|Previous team(s)||Calgary Flames
|Stanley Cup wins||1|
|Years as an NHL coach||6|
Robert Norman "Badger Bob" Johnson (March 4, 1931 – November 26, 1991) was an American college, international, and professional ice hockey coach. He coached the Wisconsin Badgers men's ice hockey team from 1966 to 1982, where he led the Badgers to seven appearances at the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championships, including three titles. During his time as the head coach at Wisconsin, Johnson also coached the United States men's national ice hockey team at the 1976 Winter Olympics and seven other major championships, including the Canada Cup and IIHF World Championships. He then coached the Calgary Flames for five seasons that included a Stanley Cup Finals loss in 1986. Johnson achieved the peak of his professional coaching career in his only season as coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1990–91, when the Penguins won the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals, the first Stanley Cup in team history. In August 1991, following hospitalization due to a brain aneurysm, Johnson was diagnosed with brain cancer. He died on November 26 of the same year.
Youth and amateur coaching career
After serving as a medic during the Korean War, Johnson began his coaching career at a high school in Warroad, Minnesota. He later coached hockey at Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis. He would teach his History class using a hockey stick as a pointer to the chalkboard. He became the head hockey coach at Colorado College in 1963.
In 1966, he moved to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he was head coach until 1982. He led the Badgers to seven NCAA tournaments, winning three championships in 1973, 1977, and 1981. It was at Wisconsin where Johnson earned the nickname, "Badger Bob."
NHL coaching career
In 1982, Johnson began his National Hockey League career when he became the head coach of the Calgary Flames, a position he held for five seasons. In the 1985–86 season, he coached the Flames to the Stanley Cup Finals, where they lost 4 games to 1 to the Montreal Canadiens. From 1987 until 1990, he served as the President of USA Hockey. Then in 1990, he was named the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. In his first season, he coached the team, which was led by superstar Mario Lemieux, to a 1991 Stanley Cup Finals championship victory over the Minnesota North Stars, four games to two, becoming the second American-born coach to win it and the first in 53 years. He was well-known amongst players and fans for his enthusiasm and unflappable optimism, immortalized through his famous catchphrase "It's a great day for hockey!" That would be his only season coaching the Penguins.
Brain cancer and death
In August 1991, as he was preparing the U.S. team for the upcoming Canada Cup tournament, Johnson suffered a brain aneurysm and was hospitalized, where he was diagnosed with brain cancer. He was then flown on a private plane to Colorado with Dr. Dan Thompson of Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh. He began treatment and turned the day-to-day supervision of the Penguins over to his three assistant coaches and Scotty Bowman, the team's director of player development and recruitment, who was named interim head coach. Though the team was "coached by committee", Johnson continued to oversee them from his hospital room by way of videotape and remained in contact by fax machine.
Johnson died of brain cancer in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on November 26, 1991. After his death, his catchphrase was emblazoned on a banner hanging over the ice at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and was painted at the bluelines on the ice in Pittsburgh's Civic Arena. In memoriam, it remained on the ice there for the remainder of the season. In addition, Penguins players would wear a patch on the left sleeve of their jerseys with the word "BADGER" under his birth and death years. Pittsburgh also put his name on the Stanley Cup a second time after their second straight Cup victory in 1992. "He's such a tremendous person...We would like to win it again for him," said Mark Recchi, a member of the team in 1991.
The team used "A Great Day For Hockey" as their marketing slogan for the 2008–09 season. On June 12, 2009, exactly 19 years to the day of Johnson's hiring, the Penguins won their third Stanley Cup. "A Great Day For Hockey" now adorns the entrance of the Consol Energy Center, the current home arena of the Penguins.
NHL coaching record
|Team||Year||Regular Season||Post Season|
|CGY||1982–83||80||30||32||14||78||2nd in Smythe||Lost in Second round|
|CGY||1983–84||80||34||32||14||82||2nd in Smythe||Lost in Second round|
|CGY||1984–85||80||41||27||12||94||3rd in Smythe||Lost in First round|
|CGY||1985–86||80||40||31||9||89||2nd in Smythe||Lost in Cup Finals|
|CGY||1986–87||80||46||31||3||95||2nd in Smythe||Lost in First round|
|PIT||1990–91||80||41||33||6||88||1st in Patrick||Won Stanley Cup|
Johnson was inducted into the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame in 1987, United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991, and the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992. He was elected to the Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993. On November 2, 2012, the Wisconsin Badgers Men's Hockey team dedicated their home ice rink to Johnson, dubbing it "Bob Johnson Rink".
Johnson is also the father of 1980 Olympic hockey gold medalist and current Wisconsin Women's Hockey Coach Mark Johnson and former Wisconsin assistant coach and Toronto Maple Leafs scout Peter Johnson and the grandfather of current Wisconsin hockey player Patrick Johnson.
- List of members of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame
- List of members of the Hockey Hall of Fame
- List of notable brain tumor patients
- Notable families in the NHL
- LaPointe, Joe (September 29, 1991). "1991–1992 NHL SEASON; Johnson's Down, but Not Out Of the Picture". The New York Times.
- Against the Odds - Part 7 on YouTube
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (March 2007)|
- Bob Johnson's career statistics at The Internet Hockey Database
- Bob Johnson's biography at Legends of Hockey
- Audio interview with Mark Johnson from Wisconsin Public Television
|Head coach of the Calgary Flames
|Head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins