Mark Johnson poses in front of his father's famous quote (photo: Pittsburgh Penguins)
Not only were there a few 2010 Olympic heroes on the ice at Friday’s morning skate, but there was also a 1980 Olympic hero in the stands of CONSOL Energy Center.
Former Penguin and 1980 United States Olympic gold medalist Mark Johnson brought his No. 1-ranked Wisconsin women’s ice hockey team to the Penguins’ morning skate before the Badgers headed out to play Robert Morris later in the afternoon.
“I hadn’t seen the new building yet,” Johnson said. “I was here last year for the closing of the old building, so I wanted to see what the place looked like. Tony (Granato) was gracious enough, and general manager Ray Shero gave us permission to come over and let the players watch the pre-game skate.”
The Badgers got a chance to meet and shake hands with some of the players they admire before practice.
“For our players, it’s exciting,” Johnson said. “There are a lot of players on the team that they idolize and they look up to.”
Even though he was in a new building, the visit brought back nice memories for Johnson.
“I was telling (Granato) stories about being in the old building,” he said. “There was certainly a lot of history there, and a lot of players came through the old building.”
One of his fondest memories of Pittsburgh came a few days after the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team earned gold in Lake Placid.
“I remember leaving Lake Placid, and four days later I was in Pittsburgh getting ready to play a Sunday afternoon game against the Islanders and (Olympic teammate) Kenny Morrow,” Johnson said. “It was a special day coming out on the ice here in Pittsburgh and having a full house and the fans showing appreciation for what we did in Lake Placid.”
His two years with the Penguins gave him a solid foundation for a substantial professional career, where he scored 508 points in 669 games with five different teams. And the Johnson family has deep roots in Pittsburgh, including when his father “Badger” Bob Johnson coached the team to a Stanley Cup in 1991.
“When my dad was here for a short time and won the Stanley Cup, the family started a good relationship with the people in Pittsburgh,” Mark said. “It’s a great sports town and the people are very passionate about hockey as we can see.”
|Badgers Women's hockey team poses at CONSOL Energy Center (photo: Penguins) |
Head coach Dan Bylsma was honored to have Johnson in attendance.
“He was my favorite player on that (1980) team,” Bylsma said. “He was quick, darty, and he was scoring big goals.
“Through the Penguins, we’ve got a chance to meet a couple of times. Through Wisconsin and Tony, we’ve talked a couple of times on the phone, and today he got an opportunity to come over to the skate.”
Not only are Johnson’s Badgers ranked No. 1 in the country, they’re also sporting an impressive 9-1 record heading into their matinee game with the Colonials.
“The season’s good right now,” he said. “We brought a couple players in last year from the Olympic team. When you have good players and you have good chemistry, you generally are going to be successful and that’s what we have right now.”