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Robert "Badger Bob" Johnson
Nhl g johnson 300.jpg
Date of Birth 4 March 1931(1931-03-04)
Birthplace Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date of Death 26 November 1991 (aged 60)
Previous Team Pittsburgh Penguins
Stanley Cup wins as a coach 1
Years as a Coach
Years as an NHL coach 6

Robert "Badger Bob" Johnson (4 March 1931 – 26 November 1991) was an American college and professional ice hockey coach.

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.


College and international coaching career

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. He 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 1981. 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."

He 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 led 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. He 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!"


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.

Johnson died of brain cancer in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on November 26, 1991. 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 Penguins won their third Stanley Cup.

NHL coaching record

Team Year Regular Season Post Season
G W L T Pts Finish Result
CGY 1982–83 80 30 32 14 78 2nd in Smythe Lost in Second Round
CGY 1983–84 80 34 32 14 82 2nd in Smythe Lost in Second Round
CGY 1984–85 80 41 27 12 94 3rd in Smythe Lost in First Round
CGY 1985–86 80 40 31 9 89 2nd in Smythe Lost in Cup Finals
CGY 1986–87 80 46 31 3 95 2nd in Smythe Lost in First Round
PIT 1990–91 80 41 33 6 88 1st in Patrick Won Stanley Cup


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.

Personal life

Johnson is also the father of 1980 Olympic hockey gold medalist and current Wisconsin Women's Hockey Coach Mark Johnson and the grandfather of current Wisconsin hockey player Patrick Johnson and AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Video Coach Scott McConnell.

See also


External links

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


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