November 26, 2007

"It's a Great Day for Hockey!"

Monday marks the 16th anniversary of the tragic death of former Pittsburgh Penguin and University of Wisconsin coach, "Badger" Bob Johnson. On November 26th, 1991, Johnson succumbed to brain cancer, which he had been diagnosed with shortly after Pittsburgh won the 1991 Stanley Cup. The 1990-91 campaign was "Badger's" only season with the Pens. He had made a name for himself while coaching the Wisconsin hockey team for sixteen season, leading them to seven NCAA tournaments and three national titles.
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Johnson was a coach that player's loved to play for. He was always upbeat and optimistic about things. There was never a bad day at the rink and he could find the good in anything. You may have heard his famous quote, "It's a great day for hockey" being uttered in an arena or during a hockey broadcast. He was a winner in every sense and was forever immortalized in the Hockey Hall of Fame, posthumously, in 1992.
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"Badger Bob" was a guy that you could not help but like. He had a warm, friendly personality and his love for the game of hockey rubbed off on everyone he came across. I remember watching the 1990-91 Penguins Stanley Cup VHS and seeing Johnson in the massage room with a Pens player. With a cheery look on his face, he tells the players aside from getting a massage to relax, to go watch a John Wayne western movie. His exuberance was contagious and probably a good reason why the 1990-91 Penguins had so much success.

This is the pre-game ceremony the Penguins held before their game on November 27th, 1991 where they unveiled "It's a great day for hockey" painted on the ice at the Igloo.

The hockey world has not been the same since Bob Johnson left us 16 years ago. Every person in hockey misses him and we can all only hope to be so optimistic like Badger Bob was.

As hockey fans, every day is truly "...a great day for hockey".

Ballhype: hype it up!


Justin said...

Thank you for posting. I remember watching this on tv and still get chills.

Quazi said...

I used to work in Event Transporation Mgt and I completely messed up the Penguins bus transfer from the airport. I was sure I would be fired. I apologized to "Coach Bob' and his reply was "Don't worry about it son, It's not that big of a deal" The next day I had the bus show up at the Hotel at the wrong time and most of the players took cabs,to their game and Coach Bob response was "These are grown men, we can figure it out~ but please try to do a little better job this next go around" What a great man , He made you feel good, he was down to earth and he never belittled anybody. A true gentleman!!

HerrWalter said...

As a fellow Badger, THANK YOU for posting this; and no matter the time of year, it's always a "Great Day for Hockey"

puck hog said...

Wish I could have met Badger Bob. I have adopted his slogan as a minor hockey coach to remind myself and others the great game we play or are involved in that he was able to make better through his enthusiasm.

Tom said...

I got a chance to meet Badger Bob once. It was when he was coaching Team USA in the 1991 Canada Cup. The teams were leaving the arena and he was signing autographs. I was pretty deep in the crowd and he kept signing. There had to have been 50-100 people there and he signed for everyone. One of the nicest people you could ever meet. I didnt know it at the time, but it would be the last game he would ever coach at the Civic Arena.

Steven said...

He was an amazing man! I never had the chance to meet him, but I always felt like I knew him. He was refered to as "The Hawk" before becoming "Badger Bob." I do not know how he aquired the name "The Hawk," but I do know this; Bob Johnson's wisdom as head coach, was as far reaching as the eyes of an eagle. He was always "big picture" oriented. He knew how to get the most out each of his players. He made average players good, and gifted players great. He was very similar to Lambardi in developing the strenghts of his players and he knew how to use them to the best of their ability. I whatched him rally his teams to victory when most folks thought it was over. He could practically will victory out of most of his teams. For the most part his teams never really lost, they just ran out of time. It is more than obvious that if he had lived longer, he would have had at least three to five Stanley Cups under his belt before falling asleep in death. The bitter-sweet ending to his life is that he finally found the perfect franchise that would go to great lenghts to keep him forever. That is why Scotty Bowman, the winningest coach ever in the NHL said: "the coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins will always be Bob Johnson." Believe or not, the Penguins, after 19 years to the very day of Johnson's start as head coach, won their 3rd Stanley Cup using Johnson's catch phrase for the entire season: "It's a great day for hockey." Those who loved him & understood him personally, or from afar will miss him the most. I'm so glad to have fallen in love with hockey back in 1968 in the state of Wisconsin. Badger Bob spoiled us rotton from 1973 to 1981. I'll never forget him.

Jay said...

When I was about 9 I got to skate a free practice at Mr. Johnson's hockey camp. Was with my child hood buddy whom I played league w/ every year since 4 or 5. One summer day I was with him and heard his Mom (Joanie)tell him to get ready for practice. Knowing only that if Greg was playing Hockey, that meant I was too, so I ran 2 1/2 blocks, grabbed my gear and Joanie didn't have the heart to tell me it was a camp, and that I wasn't paid for. She took us there, we skated for awhile, then they did the roster, couldn't find my name but let me finish the day anyway. The situation was explained to me later by my (single) Mom. RIP Badger Bob and Greggy.