Bob Johnson Biography
A man who has connections to four WCHA schools is the one responsible for crafting Wisconsin's hockey program into the one rich in winning tradition.
During the days Wisconsin football and basketball struggled through losing seasons, Wisconsin hockey captured the imagination of Badger fans beginning in 1964 when Bob Johnson took the reigns of the club.
Payoff came in 1973 when the Johnson-led Badgers corralled Denver, 4-2, for the schools' first NCAA title. Two more championships would follow during the Johnson era, including four years later in 1977. Captained by Mike Eaves, the 1977 team scored in overtime against Michigan in Detroit for championship No. 2. Finally in 1981, Wisconsin won a 6-3 contest from Minnesota in Duluth, Minn., to make it three titles in eight seasons.
During his time at Wisconsin, Johnson began the Wisconsin Olympic tradition. As head coach of the 1976 U.S. Olympic Team, Johnson took along three Badgers to Montreal. Four years later his son Mark, currently the coach of the Wisconsin's women hockey Badgers, would pace the Americans in scoring and lead the "Miracle on Ice," as the United States won gold over the heavily favored Soviet Union.
Johnson moved on to the professional ranks after 15 seasons and before the start of the 1982-83 season, joined the Calgary Flames as head coach. He took the Flames to the Stanley Cup finals in 1986, before once again moving on following the 1986-87 season. Johnson left the NHL to take over as executive director of USA Hockey.
The NHL called once again in 1990-91 as Johnson turned the Pittsburgh Penguins, a sub-.500 team the previous year, into Patrick Division, Prince of Wales Conference and Stanley Cup champions in just one season behind the bench. He was chosen to lead Team USA the following fall at the Canada Cup, but fell ill. A few weeks later, the hockey world was stunned by his death from cancer. The Penguins repeated as Cup champions that year and dedicated their triumph to the memory of the man who helped so many people during his career.
A 1992 inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, he was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1991 and the UW Athletics Hall of Fame in 1992.
Johnson's legacy still resonates today at the University of Wisconsin. His immortal words, "It's a great day for hockey!" hang from the Kohl Center rafters and from the rafters of ice rinks all over the State of Wisconsin.