Feb. 3, 2014
• Johnson News Conference
MADISON, WIS. -- Wisconsin women's hockey head coach Mark Johnson met with members of the media Monday at the Kohl Center discuss UW's upcoming series with Ohio State, Wisconsin's Fill the Bowl game against Minnesota on Feb. 15 and the upcoming Olympic Games.
Video of Johnson's media session can be found above, and a complete transcript of his remarks is below.
UW Head Coach Mark Johnson: Everyone on our team was looking forward to a bye this past weekend, give everyone an opportunity to relax a little bit. We took Saturday and Sunday off, and now we come down the homestretch with four road games. As Brian mentioned, a couple of games against Minnesota.
It's sort of crunch time. They'd be excited. Should be a fun week of practice and looking forward to the opportunity to go down to Columbus and play Ohio State, a team that hasn't lost in eight games.
It will be a very competitive, spirited series, and looking forward to the challenge.
Question: Any preliminary figures on the Fill the Bowl? I saw that North Dakota tried to pull off the same type of thing.
Johnson: I know there's a bunch of tickets out. I don't have the exact numbers. I've heard anywhere from 8,000 to 9,000 at this point.
One thing I do know, it will be a very entertaining game. We haven't played Minnesota -- they were an early opponent in early October, and certainly two quality games up in Minneapolis. They're certainly playing well coming off a sweep this past weekend up in North Dakota.
It will be entertaining, two high-powered and explosive teams, and obviously stakes will be large. So it will be an entertaining game. And you're able to raise some money and do some things for Second Harvest Foodbank, which is the biggest part of the evening.
We've done it in the past. We didn't do it last year. Two years ago we did it against Bemidji. We were close to 13,000. The year before we had done it against Minnesota, we were in the 11,000 range.
So it's an exciting opportunity for our players. You've got a daughter playing hockey, if you were sitting in the stand, and all of a sudden they walk out, and there's 12,000, 13,000, 14,000 people, for our players it's an exciting opportunity, and we're certainly looking forward to it.
From a coaching standpoint, we're figuring out what we need to do Friday night down in Columbus.
Question: For the freshmen and sophomores on the team that haven't played in the Kohl Center, how are you getting them prepared for this little ball game?
Johnson: Well, unfortunately, we won't get to skate on the Kohl Center prior to playing Minnesota just because of the way the schedules work out. Again, it's an evening where, if it's a big crowd, it's just exciting for our players.
Obviously, we have an advantage playing over at LaBahn. I think our last three or four games have been sold out. So the players are used to getting an opportunity to play in front of people.
It will be expanded over at the Kohl Center. The biggest adjustment is going to be the size of the ice sheet, which is different than it is at LaBahn. Both teams have to play on it. Both teams are going to get a chance to play in front of a big crowd, like I mentioned. It will be an exciting evening for everybody.
Question: Mark, you have -- if I counted correctly, you have eight Canadians on your roster. What's the dynamic like in your dressing room with the Olympics coming up, knowing that you've got former players on both teams, you've got players from both countries on both teams. Do you have to mediate anything? Do you have to kind of make sure you're in the middle of the room so things don't get too crazy?
Johnson: Normally, if somebody has to go in the locker room, I send Jackie (Friesen), who's obviously the female on my staff, but she's a Canadian too, and she's part of the Under 18 coaching staff that will be participating in the World Championships this spring.
So I'm looking for somebody to mediate. But unlike in past Olympics, the U.S. will play Canada in a preliminary game. It hasn't happened in the past. So that will be a fun game to watch, certainly for our players. Each group's going to be rooting for their country. It will be certainly an exciting game. And then depending on what happens within that game and the quarterfinal games, if they end up getting to the gold medal game, it will make for good TV.
But I don't have a referee right yet.
Question: At this time every four years, do you start to relive your experience from 1980?
Johnson: Well, I can tell you my phone starts ringing a lot more than it would in a normal year, but, yeah, I was telling somebody yesterday, it was four years ago I was in Vancouver getting ready trying to figure out how we're going to win the gold medal and trying to figure out where time went by, and now we're getting ready for Sochi.
Got a text the other day from (Meghan) Duggan. They had left Saturday morning to head over. For the players and certainly the coaching staff, all the hard work's in. Now it's an opportunity to mentally get yourselves ready to take a run at a gold medal.
As I told Meghan, when I sent her a text back, make sure she enjoys it and has a great time and really take a run at it because I think they're well prepared, and they certainly have a great opportunity, like we did in Vancouver, to win a gold medal. If you're able to do it, obviously, it's something that's special to each of those athletes and something that they'll cherish the rest of their lives.
As far as what we did a lot of years ago, like I say, my phone usually gets a lot busier than it does in a normal year and talking to some different media outlets and some TV people.
Again, that story never gets old. It's fun to talk about.
Question: Just what does the Olympics mean to you, and over the last 34 years, how much has the event itself changed?
Johnson: If you watched our opening ceremonies in Lake Placid and then you watched the ones up in Vancouver, that in itself shows you how much the Olympics have changed and how big they have really gotten from a visual, and each country that's hosting the Olympics, an opportunity to showcase the world.
And I'm sure what's going to happen in Sochi the next couple weeks is going to be very special. For the athletes, it's a lot of years, a lot of work, a lot of preparation coming down to some key moments, whether you're in ice hockey or in figure skating or in ski jumping. I mean, you have to perform at the right time. And if you're able to do that, you take something away from those Olympic games that maybe shape you for the rest of your life.
So it's a great opportunity for our athletes. Nice thing about the Olympics, sometimes I think we lose the true meaning of what they are for this two weeks. We get an opportunity to drop whatever beliefs we have, and the entire world gets to come together for this period of time and compete against one another. It's fun to win a medal, but it's more about participating, giving yourself an opportunity to represent your country with the entire world watching.
A couple of weeks ago when I picked up the paper and the Jamaica bobsled team decides they're going to take their invitation and go to Sochi, to me, that in itself, that's something that's very special.
Question: On the men's side, the guy who's been there before, what advice would you give to the former Badgers that are playing in this year's Olympics?
Johnson: Like I mentioned earlier, it's an opportunity, even for our professional players that make millions of dollars, it's almost like going back and being a kid. Once you put that jersey on and are representing your country, it's a special opportunity, it's a special moment.
And certainly for our players on our men's side that were part of Vancouver, they were close. They were real close. To lose overtime to Canada in the gold medal game, I think there's probably 12 or 14 players that were on that team, so they've got a little unfinished business.
So my advice would be, one, to make sure you enjoy what's in front of you and then go for it. That's part of the process, is not getting nervous, not being scared to lose, and really taking a run at it.
Like I told my team when we got ready for Vancouver, when you're on the plane leaving Vancouver, make sure you have no excuses, you have no regrets, and you have no alibis. That's the big thing because you only get one kick at the can.
When the games are over and taking the torch down and everybody's headed home, it's over. You don't get a second chance at it. So make the most of your opportunities and enjoy it.
Question: As someone who's played and coached at every level, what do you think the crowning achievement in the sport of hockey is? Is it a gold medal? Is it a Stanley Cup? Is it a National Championship in college?
Johnson: I think any time you get to represent your country, the entire world is watching. Obviously, a lot of people watching the Super Bowl yesterday, but I'm sure what the people are going to be watching in Sochi is going to be very rewarding to everybody involved. I mean, there's going to be a lot of people watching each event.
For an athlete to get to represent their country, and if you win a gold medal, and at the gold medal ceremony all of a sudden your flag is just a little higher than everybody else's and they're playing your national anthem, to me that's probably the crowning moment for any athlete that gets an opportunity to go through that period of time. It may last two minutes, two and a half minutes, the length of your national anthem, but I'm not sure you can beat it.