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Transcript: Mark Johnson news conference


ON WISCONSIN <b>Mark Johnson met with local media Monday as part of the UW weekly news conference</b>
ON WISCONSIN
Mark Johnson met with local media Monday as part of the UW weekly news conference
ON WISCONSIN

Feb. 11, 2013

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MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin women's hockey head coach Mark Johnson spoke about Wisconsin's upcoming WCHA series against Minnesota Duluth, among other things.

Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Johnson's remarks can be found below.


Johnson: Obviously coming into our last home series, it's an emotional weekend for our seniors. It should be exciting. Good extra day of preparation with our game Saturday evening at 7:00 and then Sunday afternoon at 4:00.

Coming off of what I thought was six very good periods up in St. Cloud. I like the way we played. A lot of good things happened within both Friday and Saturday's game. It bodes well because at this time of the year is when you want to be playing your best hockey. We're going down that path right now. So it's going to be a fun weekend with Duluth coming in this weekend this Saturday and Sunday.

If you look at the standings, everything is bottled up there with about four teams in the middle, everybody vying for home ice for the first round of the playoffs. So it should be exciting.

Question 1: Where do you sit nationally speaking, Mark, as far as your program?

Johnson: I'm not sure. I haven't looked I don't look at the power rankings too often. I leave that up to Dan (Koch). But I think we're in the mix. We're either probably eight or nine with North Dakota, Duluth.

So obviously, us playing Duluth, if you're successful, that's going to help. North Dakota still has to play at home against Ohio State, and then they have to finish up at Duluth. So you've got teams playing against each other. Depending on what the matchups are that first round of the playoffs, if you're successful there, that's going to help you too.

Question 2: Playing in a conference that's this difficult, what's easier? Playing the regular season or actually getting into the NCAAs.

Johnson: I think this season with a couple teams being real close and Minnesota running away with the league championship, in the past we've had three or four teams get in the National Tournament. This year is probably is not going to be that way, depending on what happens the next three weekends.

So you look at our conference, it's very competitive. I mean, Mankato goes into Duluth on Saturday and beats them 2 1. We talked about four or five years ago trying to get a more balanced group of teams in competitiveness, and we're there. So it's been a good season, other than Minnesota obviously running away with the championship, and it bodes well for, I think, women's hockey.

It's just unfortunate that we play 28 league games against each other and probably beat each other up a little bit too much. If you look at the big picture, we'll probably only get two, maybe three teams in the National Tournament, where in years past we've had up to four.

Question 3: Mark, given your previous experience with the selection process for the National Tournament, do you feel like it's I would guess it's really important for you, to eliminate any doubt that they might have, to distance yourself from whatever bubble there might be? Is that your mindset?

Johnson: Absolutely. We've had selections in the past that you look at and analyze and critique and try to figure how they got to where they got. Sometimes it was a little confusing.

The nice thing about it, we have control over where we want to go. If you're successful the next couple of weekends, get yourself in the playoffs, you're playing well, you're healthy, the opportunities are out there. As a coach and as a team, that's all you can ask for. Are the opportunities there? It's going to be up to us as far as what we want to do with that opportunity.

Question 4: Did you get your power play going a little bit this past weekend?

Johnson: We scored some power play goals. A couple of them were by design and a couple of them weren't by design. The bottom line, as you well know, Brian, at this time of the year, special teams are crucial. You have to play against Minnesota, who has a great power play, playing against North Dakota, who's got an exceptional power play the last few weekends.

Our penalty kill has been pretty good. So I think, if we can score some power play goals, which we did this past weekend, especially in Saturday's game where we go down 1 0 three minutes into the game, we get a power play opportunity, and we capitalize on it and make it 1 1. It helps out.

Certainly, if you can get to three or four this time of year, your chance of winning certainly increases.

Question 5: Mark, the senior recognition, is that as emotional for you as it is for them?

Johnson: I think it just goes you know, as we get older, things go by so quick. You look at your senior class, and you can remember when they first stepped on campus as freshmen, and their parents hugging them and letting them go, and getting on a plane or getting in their cars and driving back to their hometowns. That's certainly an emotional day, especially, I think, for the mothers.

And you'll see the same thing Sunday, when those families come back into town and they watch their daughters step on the ice and play their last regular season games. You think, wow, where did those four years ago?

I just remember when Saige or Alev and these other kids were freshmen, and now all of a sudden they're seniors and they're going to be gone. The nice thing is they've had success. They've won some championships, hopefully, they've got some more games that they have to play here.

Question 6: Your senior class, obviously, is pretty well defined, but it's also possible this is the last weekend for one of your juniors, Alex, could be on the Olympic team a year from now. Similar emotions with her? Because obviously losing somebody like that, perhaps next year, would be a pretty big deal.

Johnson: I think I'm excited for Alex for a number of reasons. The way she came in as a freshman coming off surgery, had a great freshman year, had to have some more surgery in between her freshman and sophomore year. This past summer she was healthy, got a chance to really train and work out.

She's had some obstacles in her life that have challenged her emotionally, but she's grown through all those things and has become obviously a very good goaltender. The excitement is that she may get an opportunity to play on the Olympic team next year, represent the United States in Sochi. So from a coaching standpoint, in watching some of the things she's had to deal with and maybe getting this chance, it's exciting.

So if she happens to get that chance and she's not going to play for us next year, that's great for her and her family.

Question 7: You reached 200 conference wins overall over the weekend, that milestone. I think you're a few from 300 overall. Is that something you allow yourself to reflect on and think about how you got there?

Johnson: To be honest, I didn't even know about it until somebody told me yesterday. I'm not a big numbers guy. I'm more into, okay, what do we need to do today to get ready for Duluth on Saturday night? I'm sure a lot of coaches are very similar.

Maybe sometime in the summer or when you retire and reflect back on some numbers, it might put a smile to your face, but our job right now is to continue to excel, continue to get these young ladies to play better, and hopefully we're going down that path.

As I mentioned, this last weekend a lot of good things happened. We had a lot of energy in both our games, and I'm hoping it continues, and we come out Saturday night and play the same way we did this past weekend.

Question 8: Mark, you apparently had an interesting experience last week, the movie night for the city, showing Miracle, public skate. What was that like?

Johnson: It actually turned out to be great. I didn't realize, or I didn't think that many people would come out. Then Bobby and I got a chance to go out on the ice and skate. Bobby used to practice there at East High School. You start sharing those stories with some of the young skaters out there that evening, and you reflect back. We spent a lot of time at Hartmeyer playing against each other and playing youth hockey.

To get a chance to go on the ice again outdoors, it happened to be a great night. But so many interesting things happened that evening. In fact, one gentleman came up, a big heavyset gentleman, strong accent. I said, where are you from? I knew he wasn't from North America. He said, oh, I'm from Russia. I'm like okay. He's got his wife with him and a broken accent.

What part of Russia are you from? He mentioned this town. I said, well, is it anywhere near St. Petersburg? I've been over there a couple of times. And he said, no, we're about 1,000 miles north of St. Petersburg on the Finnish border. I thought, holy man, that must be a cold spot. But he's been here ten years, and he still remembers the game. He talked about his experience when he saw the game, and now to sit out there and ask me for an autograph and we're watching the game.

As we're leaving, the best thing about it is we won again. So everybody left the Tenney Park with a smile on their face.

Question 9: Following up on that subject matter, your former Olympic teammate, Mike Eruzione is in the news recently for selling his jersey and much of his Olympic memorabilia from that team. I wonder how far you've ever contemplated following suit and selling some of your stuff. And had you or your teammates thought about pooling together your money and buying his stuff or giving him a hard time about it?

Johnson: If he ends up getting $1.2 million or $1.5 million for his jersey, I thought, well, he only scored one goal against the Russians, and I scored two. So mine might be worth twice his. It's mind boggling.

I talked to Mike a couple of times, and, obviously, he's got some grandkids. I've got a jersey the interesting thing is Steve Christoff is going to be selling his gold medal. That's something there's only 20 of them. In the team sports, the coaches or the trainers or the equipment people that work with the groups, they don't get medals. Only the players get medals. So there's only 20 of them. So for Steve to give that up, obviously, that's a big deal.

It will be interesting to see what happens. The funny thing is, when I first learned about it, I came amongst my team and, obviously, we've got some Canadian players on our team. I says, Paul Henderson sold his jersey for $1.2 million. Does everybody know who Paul Henderson is? All my players are trying to figure out who Paul Henderson is.

So I started to get on our Canadian kids because his jersey sold for $1.2 million with Team Canada 1972 series that beat the Russians in an eight game series. None of my players knew who Paul Henderson was. Again, I'm aging myself.

Then I get into, well, do you know who played on that team? They start, well, did Paul Coffey? Did Mario Lemieux? Did Wayne Gretzky? I said, well, the fourth line on that team for the Russians that year was the first line on the team that we beat in 1980 with Petrov, Mikhailov and Kharlamov world class players and wonderful experience.

But as far as the jersey and memorabilia, we'll see where that goes when the final bidding comes up.

Question 10: Did you know at the time that that took place, that 33 years down the road, that the jerseys would be going for $1.2 million, there would be movies made about it and all that other stuff?

Johnson: Absolutely not. Nobody within our locker room, and I don't even think our coaching staff, led by Herb, realistically thought we had a chance of beating the Russians. As I told the group the other night at Tenney Park, the year before we played them, our NHL All Stars got beat 6 0 by them. Then after we played them, the following year, I think it was 8 0 they came over and beat our NHL All Stars again.

Who were we? Naive college players. Even in your wildest dreams or even if you fantasized that we were going to upset them or beat them. But as far as the movies and memorabilia, if I had known that, I would have got a few more sticks signed and maybe a couple more jerseys signed, but no.

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