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Players Reflect on Badger

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

In 1992 the Penguins won their second of back-to-back Stanley Cups after sweeping the Chicago Blackhawks. To mark the 20th anniversary of that title run, will be reliving some of the key moments from the 1991-92 season and playoffs.

Here, some of the players from that team reflect on their favorite memories of former Penguins head coach "Badger" Bob Johnson, who died on Nov. 26, 1992 after leading the franchise to its first-ever Stanley Cup in '91, and the enormous impact he had on their lives with his tremendous enthusiasm, a positive attitude and a passion for teaching.


"It's a great day for hockey!"

- "Badger" Bob Johnson

“I think Bob had a knack of making everybody feel important. As a veteran, every morning he'd skate two or three laps around with me and pick my brain. He’d say ‘what do you think, how are the guys feeling,’ or he just had something that made me feel like all right, I have input. If I walked by his office he'd always grab me and say, ‘hey come on in, you got two minutes?’ and we'd visit for 10 minutes. He was such a positive guy; there were no bad days. I remember we got beat one time 8-1 in Minnesota, and he came in and I thought we were going to get lambasted. He said ‘well guys, we scored the prettiest goal tonight. Practice tomorrow at 10 a.m.’ So that’s just so Bob. So many great memories of Bob Johnson.”


“He was one of those guys that would come in the locker room and he’s always upbeat. (If someone was) just sitting there sore on the table getting a rubdown, (Badger would be) saying ‘he’s fine, get up off the table, get out there and practice.’ He had a certain way about him that no other coach I ever played for had, and he made us all believe in ourselves. Some of the stuff he said was crazy, like out of left field, but it was him and he said it, so it was OK.”


“He left a big impact on me. I had known him for a few years. I played for him in Calgary and I played for him in Pittsburgh. I knew his son Mark real well. We became good friends. My brother Brian played for Bob in college, so we knew each other for quite a long time. To see a guy like that who has such an impact on hockey – not only college hockey but pro hockey also – and to lose a guy like that, I think the game lost one of the big characters of the game.”


“When I got traded here the year before (the 1991-92 season) in December, the first thing Badger did for me was that he sat me in his office and showed me the tape (of one of my goals). It was actually fun because it was the Canada Cup in ’84, I think. I scored against Team USA and we beat them in the quarterfinals; then went to the semifinals and played against Canada. He showed me my goal and said I want you to do these things here in Pittsburgh! That was fun. That was Badger, you know? He knew about every player and every little thing. You were like his family.”


“You know, I tell this story all the time. He was always positive, so getting stuck in an elevator with him, that was one of my memories that sticks out. He’s always trying to teach, so he goes, ‘Jim, what did you do today? Did you have breakfast? You got to set a goal for yourself every day. My goal today was to buy underwear.’ And he had a bag in his hand and he set his goal (laughs). I never forget that.”


“He was a person that was firm, but he didn’t load it on the players. He was a pleasant guy to work for and pleasant to the players, but he was firm, and when he wanted to do something he would definitely put his mind to it. He was a person that didn’t get into a lot of confrontations, but he was very strategic. He was very good at offensive hockey especially, and that was a natural for Pittsburgh because that’s the kind of players we had.”

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