New Central High School, Minneapolis, Minnesota - 1913

Central High School

New Central High School, Minneapolis, Minnesota - 1913


Bob Johnson

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

Bob Johnson was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on March 4, 1931. He attended Minneapolis Central High School and then played hockey at Augsburg College for one year before transferring to 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. 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 US Olympic hockey team, the 1981, 1984 and 1987 US teams in the Canada Cup tournament, and the 1973, 1974, 1975 and 1981 US national teams.

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. 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 Stanley Cup 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!"

Shortly after the Penguins won the Stanley Cup, Johnson was diagnosed with brain cancer. He turned his coaching duties over to Scotty Bowman and began treatment.

Johnson died of brain cancer in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on November 26, 1991. After his death, his catchphrase was painted at the bluelines on the ice in the Civic Arena. In memoriam, it remained 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.

He 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.

Bob Johnson is also the father of 1980 Olympic hockey gold medalist Mark Johnson who is now (2007) the women's hockey coach at Wisconsin-Madison. Mark's son is playing hockey for Augsburg College (2007).

Contributed by John Leak, CHS 1943