Mike Johnston, whose long coaching resume includes eight seasons as an assistant/associate coach in the National Hockey League, has been named head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was announced today by Executive Vice President and General Manager Jim Rutherford.
Johnston, 57, was assistant/associate coach of the Vancouver Canucks from 1999-2006 and associate coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 2006-08. For the past six seasons he has been head coach and general manager of the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.
That native of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia also was an assistant coach for Canada at the Olympics (1998), at the World Championships (six times) and the World Junior Championships (twice). He worked full-time for Canada’s national team for five seasons from 1994-99, serving in varying roles as associate coach, head coach and general manager. He was head coach of Team Canada at the 1999 World Championships.
“Mike comes to Pittsburgh with great experience at all levels of hockey,” Rutherford said. “He has terrific knowledge of the game and proven leadership ability. His coaching style is going to be a good for the players we have here with the Penguins -- it’s an up-tempo style, but it begins from deep in the defensive zone. We’re very excited to have him.”
Johnston’s international accomplishments include five medals at the World Championships (two gold, two silver and one bronze) and two gold medals at the World Junior Championships. Among the NHL players he worked with at the Olympics and World Championships were Wayne Gretzky, Ray Bourque, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi, Patrick Roy, Martin Brodeur, Rob Blake and Martin St. Louis.
Johnston’s Portland teams have been a power in Canadian major junior hockey, reaching the WHL finals in each of the past four seasons. The Winterhawks’ 2013-14 roster featured 10 players already drafted by NHL teams, including Penguins 2012 first-rounder Derrick Pouliot.
Johnston played collegiate hockey at Brandon University in Manitoba and began his coaching career with stints at Camrose College, the University of Calgary and the University of New Brunswick.
He has co-authored two hockey books with former NHL player Ryan Walter: “Simply The Best: Insights and Strategies From Great Hockey Coaches” and “Hockey Plays and Strategies.”
Mike and his wife, Myrna, have two children, Adam and Gabrielle.