In 1966, Bob Johnson was simply: Bob Johnson.
A former Gophers hockey player, he had started his coaching career leading Warroad and Minneapolis Roosevelt before making the jump to Colorado College.
The administrators at Wisconsin had taken notice and offered him the job as coach in 1965, but he turned them down because the Badgers wanted Johnson to only recruit players from Wisconsin.
He felt the talent there wouldn't give him a chance to win. A year later they offered him the job again, and bent to his demands.
"I feel that the Wisconsin administration has a more realistic approach now to hockey than they had when I last spoke to them," Johnson told Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Tribune when he accepted the job in March of '66. "They have decided to permit me to recruit in Minnesota and other areas, I feel that under these circumstances we can build a winning team at Wisconsin."
His foresight was so accurate that it would change his name, and the history of hockey in America.
"Badger Bob" Johnson would lead Wisconsin for 15 seasons, capturing three national championships and building a reputation of unending passion and love for the game of hockey. He would take on coaching roles with Team USA, eventually reach the NHL as coach of the Calgary Flames and return to lead the Penguins to the first Stanley Cup in franchise history in 1991 — defeating his hometown North Stars in six games.
"This is a great thrill, to reach the top of the mountain," he told the Star Tribune after winning the title. "To stand at center ice with the Stanley Cup is a dream come true. The hockey gods were good to us."
The height of that moment would be followed by a shocking turn; Johnson would die of brain cancer only six months later.
To this day few can match his legacy in hockey, and his enthusiasm remains as a constant reminder anytime you hear, "It's a great day for hockey," the motto Johnson lived by and spread across the sport.
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Johnson will be inducted into the Star Tribune Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame during a ceremony Wednesday evening at the Mall of America. More information about that free event is here.