Oct. 30, 2012
• Watch Johnson's Press Conference
MADISON, Wis. -- Wisconsin women's hockey coach Mark Johnson spoke to the media on Monday at the weekly press conference held at Camp Randall Stadium.
Archived video of the media session is available through the link above, and a complete transcript of Johnson's remarks can be found below.
Coach Johnson: Thanks, Brian. Certainly pleased with the games both Friday night and then yesterday afternoon, especially the second and third periods in yesterday's game where I thought we came out and competed at a higher level.
I was a little disappointed in the way the first period went yesterday's game, but I like the response. We had a nice chat in between the first and second period. I thought our effort in the last 40 minutes put us in a position, obviously, to win the hockey game. Overall making some good strides, and hopefully, as we play each game in the new LaBahn Arena, hopefully, it slowly becomes a home.
Again, both nights I should say Friday night and yesterday afternoon, another nice day in Madison with the Packers playing, we still had a nice crowd. It presents a challenge for the opposing team because it creates quite an atmosphere.
And then obviously, as the week unfolds, and we get closer to Friday night. Obviously, it will be an emotional night for myself and my brothers and sisters and my mom as they dedicate the ice on the Kohl Center to my dad. I look forward to the ceremony Friday night before the men's hockey game.
Question 1. Mark, what do you think your dad would like best about your program?
Coach Johnson: He'd love the rink. I think and maybe some other press conference I talked about just the enjoyment of seeing all these young girls and young women get an opportunity to play hockey.
One of the things that he always tried to do was get more kids involved in the sport, whether it was through hockey schools, whether it was speaking at Kiwanis clubs, just selling the message of how great of a sport it was. He was not only an ambassador around here in the State of Wisconsin, but also throughout the United States and really around the world.
So I think the one nice thing and I think the enjoyment he would really take away is watching these young ladies come into the rink, whether it's over in the Eagle's Nest or Oregon's new rink, Cap Ice Center, watching these ladies carry their bags and sticks into the rink and also leaving the rink with sweat and on their foreheads and cheeks rosy red and getting a chance to play this great game.
I think that's probably the biggest thing that he would enjoy.
Question 2. How surreal is it going to be knowing that the rink is named after your dad, or are you numb to that at this point in your life?
Coach Johnson: I think the exciting part for me personally is just knowing that fans and future players within the program, people that will be going in and watching the games at the Kohl Center will see his name on the ice. They might not know who he was, but they may go home and look up and look at his credentials, not only what he meant to Wisconsin hockey and helping grow the sport here in Madison and throughout the state, but the ambassador and what he was able to do around the world as far as what his role was, what his gift was, and what his ability was to share it with people and the influence that he had on so many people other than just hockey players.
Question 3. Mark, when do you think you fully appreciated what he was as a coach?
Coach Johnson: I think from a coaching standpoint what I appreciate probably, when I became a young coach, some of the things you have to deal with, whether it's off the ice or on the ice with your players, the relationships, the conflicts you have, some of the things you think you'll be able to handle, but then until you get your shoes and get confrontation in situations where you have to make decisions do you appreciate what experienced coaches that have been successful for a long period of time had to deal with.
So I think from a coaching standpoint that's probably the biggest thing, how he was able to do things at a real high level for such a long period of time. And I think one of the things that I take that from is because you ask players that played for him and what they appreciated in him as a coach, and I think a lot of it was whether it was Mario Lemieux or Jaromir Jagr, the team that he had going down the stretch, winning a Stanley Cup, or some of the teams he had here in Madison, he just had that influence on his players that they really enjoyed coming to the rink and playing for him.
And he created this atmosphere that was enjoyable. It was fun. But on the other side, they worked hard, and they held each other accountable. If you're going to be successful, I think in our business or in any business within coaching, if you can create an atmosphere that players enjoy coming to the rink the NHL season is a long one, 110 games with exhibition. You see each other a lot. You travel. You're in hotels. There's some days that it's not very fun to be around each other.
But you're able to create an atmosphere where the players enjoy coming to the rink, and to me that's really the first step on the road to trying to develop a successful program, and he was able to obviously do it here in Madison through the university, but at the same time, did it in other venues along the way in his coaching career.
Probably go farther in your question, you really don't appreciate probably things as much as you should until they're gone. And so I remember having to speak at his funeral out in Colorado Springs, and a lot of people obviously were in attendance. But you start talking to people after he's gone, and some of the stories that they share with you, and you really probably at that time fully appreciate what he meant to me as a dad, but more importantly, what he meant to the hockey community that he was able to touch so strongly.
Question 4. I don't know if you've been able to speak to your mother about dropping the ceremonial first puck, but if you have, what are your thoughts on that?
Coach Johnson: Coach Eaves, Mike, asked me if I wanted to come over and drop it, but my first thought was what about getting my mom to drop it? I think she'd really enjoy it.
You talk about memories and stories, I still get people coming up to me today in fact, last week, a former not a former, but a Wisconsin men's hockey fan. He said, hey, how is your mom doing? Is she going to ring the bell when she comes back to Kohl Center? A lot of people still remember her ringing the bell when things weren't maybe going very well on the ice at the coliseum when my dad was coaching.
She tried not only to fire the fans up but also to fire the team up with her cow bell. I thought it would be appropriate for her to go on the ice at the Kohl Center. Obviously will be an emotional night for her, but I think it will be very special. I'm sure she's very excited. I know, when she talked to Mike, I'm sure she got stepped back, but she started to think about it. My sisters and brothers will be back. It will be good for her. It will be really good for her to do it.
Question 5. Mark, there are examples of coaches out there, legendary coaches who people might think the game has passed them by and that they couldn't translate their teachings to this era. Do you think your dad could coach right now and be relevant?
Coach Johnson: I would say he would probably do pretty well. Just by some of my comments earlier about creating an atmosphere. I think one of the things that was interesting when we first went to Pittsburgh, a team that had made the playoffs 7 out of the last 8 years, and he ended up winning the Stanley Cup in his first season there.
Scotty Bowman was the director of player personnel, obviously a Hall of Fame coach, had won many Stanley Cups with Montreal and extremely successful, but I think one of the things that in hearing some of the comments from Scotty in regard to watching my dad operate, he was able to handle the players back in the NHL and was able to gel them, develop the team atmosphere, develop the togetherness, and ended up going on and winning the Stanley Cup that year.
Then he got sick the following fall, and Scotty had to come out of retirement and take over that next team that would have been my dad's second group in Pittsburgh. I think one of the things Scotty talked about was his ability to watch my dad operate with the NHL players and the egos and the salaries and how he adapted himself to coming from maybe the college atmosphere obviously, he worked in Calgary for a number of years. Scotty learned a little from my dad and ended up winning the Stanley Cup that year, and then obviously going to Detroit a few years later and winning a few more Stanley Cups.
I think he would have had the ability to adapt just because he enjoyed what he did so much on a daily basis. Once the players understood that this is how he operated 24/7, whether they won, whether they lost, he was just excited to come to the rink and try to figure out how to make his players better individually and collectively make his teams better.
As I mentioned earlier, players just enjoyed playing for him. So I think he would have adapted quite easily to the groups of players we have today. I'm not sure he would have adapted to the computer and the technology and the cell phones and tweeting and Facebook and all those things but
Question 6. Mike Eaves suggested that your dad was quite a handyman around the house, dry-walling and all that. Some guys do that and it ends up crooked and not good. Was your dad pretty good at that?
Coach Johnson: I would say I ran into Mike just before I came up here, and we were talking about some of the things that come back in our memories, and he had mentioned that. I think back when he was coaching, especially the early part of it, when he went to Colorado College, he was the head baseball coach. He was an assistant football coach, and he also was obviously the head hockey coach.
The salaries back then weren't real high. They weren't making the money that some of the coaches in different sports are making today. And so you had to do things yourself. So if there was a hole in the drywall, you had to fix it. If there was a light bulb or some electrical problem, you had to fix it.
When we first came to Madison, Paul Crist is my neighbor, and George Crist and him used to referee football games on Friday night in the early part of the fall. So they'd do high school football games. So things were different back then, and you had to take care of not only your family but you had to take care of yourself to make sure you got enough things to put food on the table.
Question 7. Did he do a nice job, or could you tell there was a hole there?
Coach Johnson: I don't know. We were obviously shooting pucks at the garage door and probably the ones putting the holes in the drywall or causing the damage that he had to fix.
Question 8. What I'm sure there's a million of them, but what coaching characteristic or trait do you think you most share with your father?
Coach Johnson: I hope it's trying to be positive. I think, with the pressures of winning and some of the things the coaches have to deal with today, that really becomes difficult at times.
And so I try to take the approach, try to be positive, try to be upbeat, try to be energetic, and I think, if the head guy, the leader of the pack is able to do that, it will spread throughout the group of players you're working with. And so every day, my job is to try to come to practice, try to come to games, and be that model. And I think I take that away from him because that's the way he did it.
I'm sure Mike probably shared a story, when he first went up to Calgary, you can imagine how passionate the Canadians are about the sport of ice hockey, and how they hire a college coach to come up and coach in one of their NHL teams. That first year, they went 11 games without winning, 9 of them were losses, 2 of them were ties.
He had that unique ability to share things with the media, and he had the media convinced they should have won 7 or 8 of those 11 games, and they believed him. You stick with him, you're patient, you're energetic, and sometimes it takes a little bit longer than people want to put a product on that not only they'd be proud of, that they can win at.
They ended up not too far down the future, ended up going to the Stanley Cup Finals and lost to Chris Chelios and the Montreal Canadiens in five games. Sometimes we have to be patient, but I think what he was able to do and what I hope to do somewhat is to create that energy by being positive at all times.