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Pens of the Past - Bob 'Badger' Johnson

You've seen some of the best players featured throughout the offseason on Pensburgh's Pens of the Past segment.  I felt it was only right to feature one of Pittsburgh's best coaches as well.

This week, we'll take a look at a man who encompassed hockey into every aspect of his life up until the day he died.  This week we'll look at Badger Bob Johnson.


"It's a great day for hockey.'"

Badger Bob Johnson

career stats

Name W L T Win %
Badger Bob Johnson 232 186 58 .555

You want an example of a guy who loved hockey?  Before Johnson even coached in the NHL he was a history teacher in Minnesota.  Keeping with the tradition of the sport in that state and also tying in with his inner passion, Johnson opted to use a hockey stick as a pointer.

But what a lot of people don't know about Badger Bob is that he didn't coach in the NHL for long.  From 1982-1987 Bob coached in Calgary, leading the team to the playoffs every season before just falling short of a Cup win in 1986.  In a 4-to-1 series, the Flames fell to the Montreal Canadiens.  Following his team's loss in the Finals, Badger Bob assumed a front office position as the president of US Hockey. 

But it was the 1990-91 season in Pittsburgh, Bob's only season with the team, that Penguins fans will always remember.

Managing the corps of Lemieux, Jagr, Francis and plenty other members mentioned in the Pens of the Past, Badger Bob coached the Pittsburgh Penguins to the city's first ever Stanley Cup.

In a tragic twist of fulfilled fate, Johnson suffered a brain aneurysm before the start of the 91-92 season, ultimately leaving him hospitalized.  In his absence, assistant coach Scotty Bowman took the reigns while Johnson recovered.  But recovery was not an option for Johnson, who was diagnosed with and died of brain cancer over the span of three months.

Honoring Johnson's passing, the Pittsburgh Penguins sported logos in his honor and ultimately went onto win a second consecutive Stanley Cup.


Johnson was inducted into the Wisconsin Hall of Fame in 1987, United States Hall of Fame in 1991 and received the ultimate honor with his 1992 post-mortem election to the NHL Hall of Fame.

When you think about Johnson and the span of his career in Pittsburgh, it almost seems like it was too short to say how far he could've taken this team.  But in a similar sense, one can almost say he completed his life and lived the happiest moments when the Cup was in hand.  I mean seriously - take a look at that picture above.  Does he look like he wants to let go of that thing?