Remembering Pittsburgh Penguins Coach "Badger" Bob Johnson

By Stephanie Lewark

This is an updated version of an article I wrote a few years back, but I feel it’s just as appropriate today in remembering the legacy of a man who had so much to do with the shaping of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization into the team they are today.

Monday marked 21 years since the hockey 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 short months.  Even though he only coached the Penguins for a single season, Johnson is an important part of team history as he led the team to their first Stanley Cup victory in that season (1990-1991).

You hear many of the Penguins players who played under Johnson during that season like Phil Bourque, Joe Mullen, Jay Cauffield, Bob Errey, and Troy Loney talk about his positive attitude being infectious and that his coaching style being fundamentally simple.  But it worked and was something that was rare in that time and is no longer seen in today’s NHL. He had an uncanny ability for recognizing players’ strong points and putting them on the ice at a time when they would be most effective.

Part of the charm of Bob Johnson’s positive attitude was his sayings, the most famous of which was used by the Penguins organization for the 2008-09 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.”

Everyday is “A Great Day for Hockey” kind of a day; however, it seems to be appropriate around the 26th of November to honor a man who began building the foundation of the Pittsburgh Penguins by not only living that motto but also embodying it.  It is also why I believe he would be just as proud of the team’s accomplishments so far today.

Stephanie Lewark is a featured Pittsburgh Penguins columnist for If you enjoy her articles / posts, you can follow her on Twitter (@steelcitysports), check out her personal Facebook page (via Networked Blogs), visit her personal Tumblr page, or stop by her Pinterest page.

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