Bob Johnson (ice hockey, born 1931)

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, becoming the second American-born coach to win it and the first in 53 years. 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.

Bob Johnson
Hockey Hall of Fame, 1992
Born(1931-03-04)March 4, 1931
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
DiedNovember 26, 1991(1991-11-26) (aged 60)
Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.
Previous team(s)Calgary Flames
Pittsburgh Penguins
Stanley Cup wins1
Years as an NHL coach6
Playing career
1950–1951North Dakota
1951–1952Minneapolis Millers
1957–1958Minnesota Culbertsons
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1962–1963Roosevelt High
1963–1966Colorado College
1973US National Team
1974US National Team
1975US National Team
1975–1976US Olympic Team
1981Team USA
1982–1987Calgary Flames
1984Team USA
1987Team USA
1990–1991Pittsburgh Penguins
Head coaching record
Overall394–224–27 (.632)
Tournaments9–5 (.643)
Accomplishments and honors
1970 WCHA Tournament Champion
1972 WCHA Tournament Champion
1973 WCHA Tournament Champion
1973 NCAA National Champion
1977 WCHA Regular Season Champion
1977 WCHA Tournament Champion
1977 NCAA National Champion
1978 WCHA Tournament Champion
1981 NCAA National Champion
1982 WCHA Tournament Champion
1991 Stanley Cup
1977 WCHA Coach of the Year
1987 Wisconsin Athletic Hall of Fame
1991 United States Hockey Hall of Fame
1992 Hockey Hall of Fame
2000 Hobey Baker Legend of College Hockey Award

Johnson 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!" .

Youth and amateur coaching career

Johnson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He attended Minneapolis Central High School and the University of Minnesota, where he played hockey under legendary coach John Mariucci.

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. Johnson 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."

Johnson also coached the 1976 Winter Olympic hockey team, the 1981, 1984 and 1987 U.S. teams in the Canada Cup tournament, and the 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1981 U.S. national teams.

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. 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.

On November 26, 1991, Johnson died of brain cancer in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 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,"[1] said Mark Recchi, a member of the team in 1991.

At the team's 1992 victory celebration at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Bowman's first remark was that "the coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins will always be – Bob Johnson".[2]

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 Pittsburgh Penguins won their third Stanley Cup. Furthermore, the Penguins won their fourth Stanley Cup, 26 years to the day that Johnson was hired, on June 12, 2016. "A Great Day For Hockey" now adorns the entrance of the PPG Paints Arena, the current home arena of the Penguins.

At the time of his death Johnson's 234 NHL victories were a record for an American born coach. Dan Bylsma, John Tortorella and Peter Laviolette have since eclipsed this mark.

Head coaching record


Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Colorado College Tigers (WCHA) (1963–1966)
1963–64 Colorado College 11–14–14–11–16th
1964–65 Colorado College 7–17–12–14–07th
1965–66 Colorado College 9–18–24–12–27thWCHA First Round
Colorado College: 27–49–410–37–3
Wisconsin Badgers (Division I Independent) (1966–1969)
1966–67 Wisconsin 16–10–0
1967–68 Wisconsin 21–10–0
1968–69 Wisconsin 22–10–2
Wisconsin: 59–30–2
Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA) (1969–1975)
1969–70 Wisconsin 23–11–012–10–04thNCAA Consolation Game (Win)
1970–71 Wisconsin 20–13–113–9–03rdWCHA East Regional Semifinals
1971–72 Wisconsin 27–10–120–8–02ndNCAA Consolation Game (Win)
1972–73 Wisconsin 29–9–218–9–13rdNCAA National Champion
1973–74 Wisconsin 18–13–512–11–55thWCHA First Round
1974–75 Wisconsin 24–12–219–11–24thWCHA First Round
Wisconsin: 141–68–1194–58–8
Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA) (1976–1982)
1976–77 Wisconsin 37–7–126–5–11stNCAA National Champion
1977–78 Wisconsin 28–12–321–9–22ndNCAA Consolation Game (Loss)
1978–79 Wisconsin 25–13–319–11–24thWCHA Second Round
1979–80 Wisconsin 15–20–112–18–09th
1980–81 Wisconsin 27–14–117–11–0t-2ndNCAA National Champion
1981–82 Wisconsin 35–11–118–7–12ndNCAA Runner-Up
Wisconsin: 167–77–10113–61–6

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion


Team Year Regular season Postseason
Games Won Lost Tied Points Finish Won Lost Win % Result
CGY 1982-83 80 32 34 14 78 2nd in Smythe 4 5 .445 Lost in Division Finals (EDM)
CGY 1983-84 80 34 32 14 82 2nd in Smythe 6 5 .545 Lost in Division Finals (EDM)
CGY 1984-85 80 41 27 12 94 3rd in Smythe 1 3 .250 Lost in Division Semifinals (WPG)
CGY 1985-86 80 40 31 9 89 2nd in Smythe 12 10 .545 Lost in Stanley Cup Finals (MTL)
CGY 1986-87 80 46 31 3 95 2nd in Smythe 2 4 .333 Lost in Division Semifinals (WPG)
CGY total 400 193 155 52 25 27 .481
PIT 1990-91 80 41 33 5 88 1st in Patrick 16 8 .667 Won Stanley Cup
PIT total 80 41 33 5 16 8 .667
Total 480 234 188 58 41 35 .539


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".

Personal life

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. He is the grandfather of former Wisconsin hockey player Patrick Johnson, former Denver Pioneer hockey player Scott McConnell, Augsburg College men's assistant hockey coach Chris Johnson, and women's hockey player Megan Johnson.

See also


Sporting positions
Preceded by
Al MacNeil
Head coach of the Calgary Flames
Succeeded by
Terry Crisp
Preceded by
Craig Patrick
Head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins
Succeeded by
Scotty Bowman
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
John MacInnes
WCHA Coach of the Year
Succeeded by
Marshall Johnston
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