Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Erickson: Johnson’s search for a men’s job should continue

Wisconsin women’s hockey head coach Mark Johnson is a legend on the ice and as a coach, but it seems things aren’t exactly going his way in the latter arena.

Last fall Penn State received an $88 million private donation intended for a start-of-the-art hockey arena and to found a Division I men’s and women’s hockey program.

With an impressive resume, Johnson applied for the job, but lost out to Princeton’s Guy Gadowsky. Johnson told he wasn’t certain he’d take the job if offered, but he had high enough interest in the position to visit Happy Valley for an interview.


This hasn’t been the first time Johnson has lost out on the head coaching position for a men’s team.

Johnson first started coaching at the collegiate level in 1996 as an assistant coach for the UW men’s team. But in 2002 when the new head coaching job opened up for both the men’s and women’s teams, Johnson was beat out by former teammate and current head coach Mike Eaves for the men’s team opening. Johnson then took over the women’s program.

In their time here, both coaches have led their teams to national championships – most notably in 2006 when they both won. Johnson continued to bring his team back to the national championship game, winning in 2007, 2009, 2011 and finishing runner-up in 2008. If you’ve already forgotten, Eaves also led the men’s team to the national championship game in 2010 as well.

For Johnson, in his eight years with the women’s team – he took 2010 off to coach the U.S. Olympic squad – he’s led Wisconsin to five national championships, winning four of them. Pretty impressive.

In that time he also led the 2010 U.S. women’s Olympic team to a silver medal and won the WCHA coach of the year award in 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011. Each year his squad has won a national championship he was also honored as the AHCA coach of the year.

His resume speaks volumes, but for some reason he just can’t seem to land himself a coaching job with a men’s team.

Johnson has always mentioned he enjoys coaching women’s hockey – probably due to the fact their egos are virtually nonexistent. But with accomplishing nearly all he can for a team, of course he’s going to want to move onto something new.

As sad as it would have been to see him leave UW – after all, he played here while coached by his dad “Badger” Bob Johnson – he’s done about as much as anybody could possibly do for the sport of women’s hockey and the sport still isn’t receiving the attention or respect it should after 10 years in the NCAA.

Women’s hockey rarely gets televised and has to play national championships in arenas that are shockingly unworthy to hold such an event. (For more on this see my column from March 25). Despite taking a program and transforming it into one of the best in the nation – if not the best – and in effect bringing more attention to the sport itself, people just tend to look the other way while still praising Johnson for his career on the ice.

If there was anything else he could possibly do for the sport it would be to bring back gold instead of silver from the Olympics and that wasn’t even all on him.

Having done all he can for one side of hockey, Johnson deserves the chance to coach a men’s team. It’s a different brand of hockey and a little closer to home for him. But by no means should he wait for Eaves to leave the Badgers before trying to take that next step.

The perfect opportunity arose with Penn State establishing a hockey program. While he didn’t get the job in the end, there was no reason he shouldn’t have gone after it. Sure he has so many ties to Wisconsin that the idea of him coaching here is all too perfect, but let’s be honest, if it was a perfect situation he’d be in charge of the men’s team, not the women’s.

With these ties in mind, there’s no reason Johnson should hold back from moving on to a new challenge if he sees fit.

If athletes always had to play by this idea of being part of the organization they have the most ties to or is essentially their home, Aaron Rodgers would be playing for the 49ers, the NHL itself would get a complete makeover and Kevin Garnett would have never left the Timberwolves.

Sounds ridiculous right?

Wisconsin is certainly lucky to have Johnson around for a little longer. Whether they win four more national championships in the coming years or come close, the Badgers have the opportunity to keep one of greatest to ever be a part of the game.

Without Johnson, hockey would certainly be missing something. But UW has to know they won’t be able to hold onto him forever.

Kelly is a sophomore intending to major in journalism. Do you think Mark Johnson should forever remain a Badger? Let her know at [email protected].

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