Athlete, coach and inspiration for the movie "Miracle," Mark Johnson is an accomplished player and coach. Born on September 22, 1957, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Johnson is son of legendary University of Wisconsin men's hockey coach Bob Johnson (1966-82) and brother of former men's assistant coach Peter Johnson (1987-91). Johnson played for the University of Wisconsin ice hockey team for three years under his father, and helped Wisconsin win the 1977 national championship during his freshman year. The first Badger ever to win Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) Rookie of the Year honors, he went on to become the school's second all-time leading scorer with 256 points on a school-record 125 goals and 131 assists in just three seasons. Selected the 1978-79 WCHA Most Valuable Player, Johnson was a two-time first-team, All-WCHA pick and a two-time All-American. In 2002 Johnson's collegiate career was honored when he was selected as one of the WCHA's "Top 50 Players in 50 Years."
Johnson went on to be a star player on the U.S. Olympic Hockey team at the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Games. While playing the dominant and heavily favored Soviet Union, Johnson scored crucial goals in the first and third periods of the game, helping the U.S. to victory. After winning this so-called "miracle on ice," the U.S. went on to win the gold medal against Finland. Johnson also participated in the 1998 International Ice Hockey Federation (A-Pool) World Championship Qualification Tournament in Austria. Johnson's gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic Hockey team lit the flame at the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games and was honored by Sports Illustrated as giving us the "Greatest Sports Moment of the Century." In 2004 Disney chronicled the team's unlikely rise to the top in the blockbuster movie, "Miracle." Johnson has represented the United States in 13 international hockey tournaments over the course of his career.
Following his Olympic experience, Johnson embarked on a successful 11-year National Hockey League (NHL) career. He began with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1980. Throughout his career he moved on to various teams, including the Minnesota North Stars, the Hartford Whalers, the St. Louis Blues and the New Jersey Devils. Over his 669-career NHL contests, Johnson collected 203 goals, 305 assists and scored 508 points, highlighted by his 87-point season as captain of Hartford in 1983-84. He also tied an NHL All-Star game record with three assists that season. He retired in 1992.
Since retiring Johnson has become a coach. In September 2001 he served as an on-ice assistant coach at the U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Orientation Camp in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which featured 38 of the top American players in the NHL. Johnson served as an assistant coach to the 2002 U.S. Men's National Team that competed in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship in Gothenberg, Jonkoping and Karlstad, Sweden. He also traveled back to Lake Placid in 2004 to coach at the USA Hockey 17-18-Year-Old Player Development Festival. With strong ties to Wisconsin, Johnson became head women's hockey coach at the University of Wisconsin in 2002. Only the third head coach in the program's history, Johnson joined the staff after serving as an assistant coach with the men's program from 1996-2002. During that time he helped the men's team to a WCHA regular-season title during the 1999-2000 season, as well as a WCHA Final Five championship in the 1997-98 campaign. In four seasons, Johnson and the Wisconsin women's hockey team have continued to shatter school records and make program history, scoring back-to-back NCAA championships in 2006 and 2007. Johnson's crew has set a new school record for wins each season he has been at the helm, and Johnson was named the American Hockey Coaches Association Division I Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2007.
Johnson has been the recipient of numerous awards and is known internationally for his
success both as an athlete and coach. In 2004 he was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame for his indivdual accomplishments as a player and as a coach. One of Johnson's most recent honors was being asked to coach the U.S. women's national team at the 2007 International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship in Winnipeg and Selkirk, Manitoba. Johnson also received one the most prestigious honors given by the NCAA, the Silver Anniversary award, for his accomplishments in the 25 years following his days as a student athlete. Johnson resides in Verona, Wisconsin, with his wife Leslie and his five children: Douglas, Christopher, Patrick, Mikayla and Megan.
The Wisconsin Historical Society celebrated the lifetime achievements of Mark Johnson, along with four other individuals with Wisconsin ties, during the History Makers Gala in Milwaukee on May 9, 2007. Johnson received the Vince Lombardi Award for Distinction in Sports.