Remembering "Badger" Bob Johnson

Stephanie LewarkCorrespondent INovember 26, 2008

Today marks 17 years that the world has been without the great "Badger" Bob Johnson, who passed away in 1991 at the age 60 after battling brain cancer for only a few months.

Even though he only coached the Pittsburgh Penguins for a single season, Johnson is an important part of Penguins history, as he led the team to their first Stanley Cup victory in that season (1990-91).
You hear many of the Penguins players who played under Johnson during that season, like Phil Bourque, Joey Mullen, Jay Caulfield, Bob Errey, and Troy Loney, talk about his positive attitude being infectious and his coaching style being fundamentally simple. But it worked. It was something that was rare in that time and is no longer seen in today's NHL.
He also had an uncanny ability for recognizing players' strong points and putting them on the ice at a time they were most effective.
Part of the charm of Bob Johnson's positive attitude was his sayings—the most famous of which is being used by the Penguins organization for this year's marketing ad campaign:
"[It's] a Great Day for Hockey."

And he believed that, as a coach, you never ask a player to do something that you, as a coach, could not—which is why he posted the following sign on his office door:
"Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig."
Attitudes Lifted Team
Taken from an article in the New York Times published November 27, 1991:
"There are a lot of ways to coach," Mr. Johnson said last year of his coaching philosophy. "You can coach from fear, when it's 'you do it this way or you're gone tomorrow,' or you can develop pride in performance."
Recently, a webpage went up appropriately called, "It's a Great Day for Hockey! A Tribute to Legendary Leader Badger Bob Johnson." It announces that an autobiographical book to be written by Tom Osenton (with the same title, I'm assuming) is in the works and asks readers to submit their personal stories about him:
Your stories - and those of hundreds of others around the world—will be collected and edited into a book that will show—not tell—the story of Badger Bob. Please help us build a lasting tribute to a man who gave much more than he took.
Every day is "A Great Day for Hockey." However, it seems to be most appropriate each November 26 to honor a man who began building the foundation of the Pittsburgh Penguins, not only living by that motto but also embodying it—which is why I believe he would be proud of the team's accomplishments so far.