On June 7, Joel Johnson was named head coach of the St. Thomas women's hockey team, tasked with leading the Tommies as they enter their first season as an NCAA Division I program.
On Wednesday, Johnson added an even bigger role, being named head coach of the U.S. women's Olympic team that will compete in the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. Team USA will try to repeat as champion after the 2018 team beat Canada in a shootout in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
"From a staff and player point of view, the foundation is there,'' Johnson said. "What they accomplished is so amazing, and I'm excited to try to replicate it.''
USA Hockey also announced that Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan will coach the 2022 men's Olympic team and that David Hoff of Bottineau, N.D., will coach the Paralympic sled hockey team.
Johnson, 47, will be leading the Olympic team for the first time but has worked with USA Hockey on various teams and camps since 2000. He's also serving as coach of the U.S. women's national team that will compete in the Women's World Championship on Aug. 21-30 in Calgary, Alberta. He coached the U.S Under-18 team to four consecutive world championship gold medals (2015-18) and led the Under-22 select team to series victories over Canada in 2018 and '19. As an assistant with the women's national team, Johnson helped Team USA win the Four Nations Cup in 2018 and World Championship in 2019.
"I was so proud in the summer of 2000 when I was able to say, 'Hey, I worked a national team development camp,' '' Johnson said. "I was pushing pucks and doing nothing. It's been a constant journey for me. Every time I get the opportunity to represent USA Hockey … it's been a sincere privilege.''
Before taking the St. Thomas job, Johnson, of White Bear Lake, served as a Gophers assistant or associate head coach for 16 seasons, interrupted by six years when he coached men's hockey, soccer and golf at Bethel. During his time in Dinkytown, the Gophers won six NCAA championships.
Johnson knows coaching both Team USA and St. Thomas will be challenging, but he believes he'll have plenty of help from his staff.
"I can't be more confident in knowing that I'll be supported at St. Thomas and that our players are not going to notice a difference,'' Johnson said. "I'm so confident in [St. Thomas assistant coaches] Bethany Brausen and Marty Sertich in their ability to coach in my absence. … There isn't a first or second priority. We're going to do both and do them with excellence.''