It was just like any other win for Mark Johnson.
However, after the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey coach talked with his players following a 4-0 victory over Clarkson University on Sunday, Jan. 25, his captain Blayre Turnbull presented him with a game puck.
It was career victory No. 350 for Johnson. The longtime Badgers coach had no idea he’d hit a milestone.
"The numbers she threw out at me were like, ‘Oh, wow,’” Johnson said. “Then you reflect on it, and the first things that come to mind are the assistant coaches that have worked with me, the input they’ve had and the other support people that work within our group. It takes a lot of people and a lot of hard work and a lot of commitment to make those things happen.
“But the most important people are the players you bring in, so you start reflecting on some of the players we’ve had come through here. They’re the ones that win you the games.”
Johnson, who has guided Wisconsin to four national titles during his tenure, took a little time to celebrate his monumental victory.
“It was nice to get some emails and some phone calls and some texts from different people congratulating me,” Johnson said. “Again, it’s me with a win, but more importantly it’s a lot of people who had a lot to do with me getting there.”
Johnson is fourth all-time in victories in women’s college hockey history. He now has a career record of 350-68-33.
In 13 seasons as Wisconsin’s head coach, Johnson has the best winning percentage in women’s college hockey history (.812) for coaches with more than 250 victories.
"I don’t do it for the numbers, so whether it’s 350 or 150 — you look at Mike Krzyzewski, 1,000, wow. That thing jumps right out at you,” Johnson said. “I’m not in it for that, I’m in it for many other reasons. Hopefully I do some things to help some kids out, not only getting their degrees but having a good experience with their hockey. At the end of the day, those are things that are equally if not more important than numbers.”
Three coaches, who are all still active, have 400 career wins: Middlebury College’s Bill Mandigo (492-126-34), Harvard University’s Katey Stone and Mercyhurst University’s Michael Sisti.
“There’s an elite pool there with some of those other coaches, and obviously I’m biased, but he’s a great teacher of the game,” said Wisconsin associate head coach Dan Koch, who has coached under Johnson for 11 years. “When you talk to former players, that’s when you learn how much they really appreciate him.”
Johnson, who also coached the U.S. women’s hockey team to a silver medal in the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, might best be known as a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team that unexpectedly won gold in Lake Placid, N.Y. He scored two goals when the U.S. shocked the Soviet Union in the game dubbed “Miracle on Ice.”
Is Johnson more associated with his on-ice accomplishments or his solid work behind the bench?
“I don’t know, that’s a good question,” Johnson said. “Usually in February during an Olympic year or maybe this year with the 35th-year anniversary coming up, a lot of people look at me as an Olympic player. Again, I’m not wrapped up in that stuff.”
Koch knows it takes a special person to be a great player as well as a phenomenal coach.
“He’s definitely a player’s coach and he understands with his experiences and what it’s like to be a college athlete,” Koch said. “I think that’s one of the key things as far as recognizing when to really push them and work them and also recognizing when to back off and let their bodies recover.”
Johnson believes he has many milestones left in his coaching career. But his next achievement isn’t too far in his future.
“Trying to win Friday night,” Johnson said with a laugh.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.