I am SO excited to finally write about this guy. I wanted to gush about him immediately after I gushed about Mark Pavelich on day two, but better judgment told me to spread out my posts about the Miracle on Ice boys. I'm a champ at delayed gratification, folks. There's still a fan letter for one more of their teammates (whose name is NOT Mike Eruzione! GASP! Spoiler alert!) waiting in the wings, but I'm holding off on that for as long as I can. But now I'm getting ahead of myself!
Mark's 1980 Olympic teammates called him Magic because, lol, Magic Johnson, get it? They also happened to be completely not ironic about it, calling him Magic because of what he could do with the puck. He very nearly made the 1976 Olympic team as a senior in high school (OH OKAY), but just missed the cut because of politics; his dad was the coach, which came with a ton of accusations of nepotism for the both of them. Welp, four years later Mark was named the MVP of the gold medal-winning Miracle on Ice team of 1980. I mean, that's one way to silence the haters.
In between Olympic years, Mark attended the University of Wisconsin. As a freshman in 1977, he helped the team win the NCAA Championship and was the first Badger to win the WCHA Rookie of the Year award. He became the school's second all-time highest scorer and was a two-time All-American.
But remember how he and his dad (Badger Bob Johnson) were accused of nepotism when Mark almost made the 1976 Olympic team? Well, Badger Bob coached at Wisconsin (hence the nickname). Mark got the same accusations there, from teammates and opponents alike, and had to prove to everyone that he deserved to be on the team. In the latest edition of Wisconsin's athletics magazine, he talks about the first time he played against the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, where he got on the ice and was hearing, "The only reason you're in uniform is because your dad is the coach."
He goes on to say; "I remember getting the overtime winner the first night; that shut people up pretty quick." It's a good thing they were at a hockey rink, 'cause otherwise I'm not sure they could've found enough ice for that burn.
But hang on, let's talk about Lake Placid, shall we? Overall, including the preseason, Mark had 38 goals and 54 assists in 60 games played for a whopping 92 points, a solid 22 points more than any of his teammates. During the seven games of the Olympic tournament, he had five goals and six assists for a team-leading 11 points. Most importantly, he scored twice against the Soviets. But more on that in a minute.
In a plot twist that shocked ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE (or not), Mark went to the NHL after the Olympics. He was an All Star in 1984 and ended up tearing it up as a New Jersey Devil for most of his career until retiring in 1990.
As a coach, he's led the University of Wisconsin women's hockey team to four national championships since taking the head coaching job in 2002. He's the only member of the 1980 Olympic team who's the head coach of a college or pro hockey team. And he also coached the 2010 women's Olympic team to a silver medal in Vancouver. So, uh, apparently he's doing something right, I guess. I mean, maybe.
I wish there was some sort of Mark Johnson highlight reel that I could show you, but the best I could do is ESPN's Outside the Lines on the Miracle on Ice. Start at 2:35 and watch for about a minute
Mark was so good that Herb Brooks didn't even need to see him try out to know he needed him on the Olympic team. Early on in the team's exhibition schedule, Herb flat out told him that the team would go as far as Mark took it. And it's true; the 1980 Olympic team would not have done what it did without him.
Oh god, this turned into a novel really quickly. And I'm not. even. sorry.