BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Jan. 21, 2021 – One of the top scorers in the WCHA's highest-scoring decade, Wisconsin's Mark Johnson has been named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Player of the Decade for the 1970s. The award presented by Anderson's Pure Maple Syrup and SPIRE Credit Union.
Johnson, who was named to the WCHA's All-Decade Team earlier this week, finished his three-year career with 256 points (125g-131a) in 125 career games with the Badgers, an average of 85 points per season. His career points total ranks No. 11 in league history while his goal total is No. 6 all-time and his assist total is tied for 24th in WCHA history.
"Growing up in Madison and watching my dad coach the Wisconsin Badgers, my dream as a hockey player was to hopefully get a chance to play for Wisconsin one day," Johnson said. "I was fortunate enough to be able to do that and certainly played on some great hockey teams in my three years at Wisconsin. Playing in the WCHA and against great competition provided me with the opportunity to experience memories I still have so many years later. I'm just very thankful for all the great hockey players I played with at Wisconsin that pushed me and certainly for the WCHA for making me a better player and getting a chance to go play in the NHL."
After a stellar high school career in Madison, Wis., Johnson played under his father, Bob, with the Badgers for three seasons, winning WCHA Freshman of the Year honors in 1976-77 as Wisconsin stormed to its second NCAA championship with a 37-7-1 record. Johnson tallied 80 points on 36 goals and 44 assists in his rookie campaign. He earned the first of two All-America and All-WCHA honors as a sophomore, netting 86 points on 48 goals and 38 assists and sharing WCHA Scoring Champion honors with 70 points in 31 league contests that season. Johnson repeated the All-America/All-WCHA double as a junior with a 90-point campaign (41g-49a).
Johnson would forego his senior season after being tabbed for a spot on the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, tallying 70 points in pre-Olympic competition before leading the team in scoring in Lake Placid with 11 points as the United States stunned the world en route to the Gold medal.
Johnson scored one of the most-critical goals of the tournament for the United States in their upset of the Soviet Union, pouncing on a rebound at the Soviet net and tying the game as time expired in the first period. Johnson would tie the game again in the third period as the went on to U.S. completed the 4-3 victory. Two days later, he assisted on the game-winning goal and potted the final score of the contest as the United States clinched Gold with a 4-2 win over Finland.
Following the Olympics, Johnson would go on to an 11-year career in the NHL with Pittsburgh, the Minnesota North Stars, Hartford, St. Louis and New Jersey.
In 2002, he returned to his alma mater as the head coach of the Badgers' women's program. Now in his 18th season, he has built a Wisconsin program that is one of the most successful in women's hockey. The Badgers have won five NCAA championships, eight WCHA postseason crowns and eight league regular season titles. Both WCHA totals are league records for a head coach. On Oct. 12, 2019, Johnson became the first head coach in NCAA women's hockey history to win 500 games. Through January 16, his career record stands at 528-94-46 (.825).
A charter member of Wisconsin's Athletics Hall of Fame, he is the only Badger men's hockey player to have his jersey retired. In 2002, Johnson was named to the WCHA's Top 50 Players in 50 Years list and in 2004, he was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
Johnson is the third of seven Player of the Decade honorees that will be announced by the WCHA during the 2020-21 season. The WCHA is also honoring an outstanding coach and selecting an All-Decade Team for each decade as the league celebrates 70 Years of Excellence.
Other Top Players of the 1970s
Tom Ross, F, Michigan State (1972-76): WCHA's all-time leading scorer with 324 points on 138 goals and 186 assists … One of three players in league history with more than 300 career points. Mike Zuke, F, Michigan Tech (1972-76): Two-time All-American (1973-74) … Three-time All-WCHA (1973-74, 1974-75, 1975-76) … Ranks No. 2 on the WCHA career scoring list with 310 career points. Bill Baker, D, Minnesota (1975-79): Two-time national champion with Minnesota (1976, 1979) … Left school as the Gophers' all-time leading scorer among defensemen and still ranks No. 6 on that list. Curt Giles, D, Minnesota Duluth (1975-79): Two-time All-American (1977-78, 1978-79) … Two-time All-WCHA (1977-78, 1978-79) … Posted 171 career points on 36 goals and 135 assists in 143 games for the Bulldogs. Craig Norwich, D, Wisconsin (1974-77): Holds the WCHA single-season defenseman records for assists (65) and points (83) … Only blueliner in league history to surpass 60 assists and 80 points in a season.
Previous WCHA Player of the Decade Winners
1950s: John Mayasich, Minnesota
1960s: Keith Christiansen, Minnesota Duluth
For more on the 1970s and the rest of the WCHA's history, visit our 70 Years of Excellence Page.
Celebrating 70 Years of Excellence
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association will celebrate 70 Years of Excellence throughout the 2020-21 season. The league will name all-decade teams and players and coaches of the decade for each of its seven decades. The teams and individuals will be selected by a panel of current and former WCHA staffers and media members who have or are currently covering the WCHA. More than 200 nominees were submitted for consideration by the 21 schools that have called the WCHA home since 1951.
About Anderson's Pure Maple Syrup
Anderson's Maple Syrup Inc. is proud to continue its 90-year tradition of producing, processing, and packaging consistently high-quality pure maple syrup, organic pure maple syrup, and other maple products. For more information, visit Anderson's Pure Maple Syrup.
About Spire Credit Union
Founded in 1934, SPIRE Credit Union's commitment to friendly, personal and genuine service remains today. Founded as Twin Cities Co-ops Credit Union, SPIRE strives to improve lives through banking with a purpose as one of Minnesota's top credit unions. For more information, SPIRE Credit Union.
About the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Men's League
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association, among the most historic, tradition-rich and successful conferences in all of collegiate athletics, is marking its 69th season of men's competition in 2020-21. The 10-team NCAA Division I conference consists of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Chargers), the University of Alaska Anchorage (Seawolves), the University of Alaska (Nanooks), Bemidji State University (Beavers), Bowling Green State University (Falcons), Ferris State University (Bulldogs), Lake Superior State University (Lakers), Michigan Technological University (Huskies), Minnesota State University (Mavericks) and Northern Michigan University (Wildcats). For more information, visit wcha.com.