Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


“Miracle” man leads Badgers

Mark Johnson has two hours of doing what he loves most, coaching hockey, before he has to leave the ice to a whirlwind of media attention. There will be television interviews, radio interviews, newspaper and magazine interviews, and then a trip across the country to Hollywood for the opening of the movie “Miracle,” all while leading the fourth-ranked Wisconsin women’s hockey team as they inch closer to the NCAA’s Frozen Four.

The Badgers’ second-year head coach has had some experience with this attention before, having been a standout player at Wisconsin in the late ’70s before leading the U.S. hockey team in scoring during the 1980 Olympics. His two goals in the “Miracle on Ice” game made him a national hero and, with the movie “Miracle” rekindling interest in Johnson, there is plenty of attention being thrown his way. Yet his focus remains on the ice with his team.

“At some point it gets to be a hassle because your main focus is working with this group, keeping them focused and preparing them for the next game,” said Johnson of all the extra attention surrounding him.


For the team it is just a part of the wild ride that this season is shaping up to be.

“Knowing that Coach Johnson was part of that team and such an integral part of that team makes it really exciting for me to see the movie,” said junior captain Carla MacLeod. “It’s really fun and exciting for the team.”

For Johnson and the team, the eye of the media storm has passed with the release of the movie, and now it is time to focus on the home stretch of what is shaping up to be a fantastic season.

“I just hope we can continue to play the way we have been up to this point because we’re close,” said Johnson. “But sometimes close won’t get you where you want to go, and close can be more frustrating than being far away.”

Not only does Johnson have a plethora of hockey knowledge gained from his incredible playing experiences, but he’s also a coach’s kid. His father, Bob Johnson, won three national titles at Wisconsin before moving on to the NHL, where he also won a Stanley Cup. Having grown up around the game and one of its best coaches, Mark Johnson has learned a lot about how to manage a successful team.

“People liked playing for [Bob Johnson]; he made you work hard, but you had fun,” said Johnson of his father. “That’s what made him successful, and that’s what I try to take away from his coaching style.”

Johnson knows that it can be a long season if the players don’t enjoy themselves on the ice, and he’s tried to incorporate that into his system.

“We try to incorporate that the kids are enjoying themselves, yet through that they are working hard and trying to improve, and getting better at what they are doing” said Johnson. “If you’re able to put those things together, generally you’ll be successful.”

The system seems to work, as last season’s program-record 22 wins and Western Collegiate Hockey Association coach-of-the-year award can attest. The team’s success this season and the attitude of the players toward their coach also indicate that the program is heading in the right direction with Johnson at the helm.

“Every practice you learn something new,” said senior assistant captain Meghan Hunter. “It’s just an honor to play for him.”

Senior Steph Millar added, “He has everyone’s respect.”

With all of the games he has played in, one would expect Johnson to have a fantastic library of stories for his team. However, the players all agreed that their coach keeps the storytelling to a minimum.

“We hear some stories, but not all the time,” said Millar. “He really only tells us stuff that is key to what we’re doing.”

Assistant coach Tracey Cornell agreed, adding “He’s got some great stories, but he’s a humble guy, so he isn’t talking about his past all the time.”

Still, all of those stories come from a successful career that has made Johnson a very recognizable face in the hockey world, and the exposure can only help in recruiting.

“It gets you in the door,” Johnson said. “Whether I won a gold medal or not isn’t going to be the bottom line in choosing to come here. It’s whether I can coach or not, and make you a better player and person.”

With a coach as dedicated to his team as Johnson is, it is easy to see why players would choose to come to Wisconsin. Despite his fame, it is all about the players.

“The fun part is watching this group unite,” Johnson said of his team. “You hope they get to experience something special at the end of the season.”

With “Miracle” in theatres, Johnson has become a hero again, but he was right to realize that his past can only get him so far. Players may not choose to come to Wisconsin to play for Mark Johnson, the Olympic star, but they do come to play for Johnson, the great coach and incredible person.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *