The University of Wisconsin has never before retired a men’s hockey player’s jersey.
The choice for the first one was something of a no-brainer.
Mark Johnson, the program’s all-time leading goal-scorer despite playing only three seasons for the Badgers, will be honored with his jersey No. 10 in the Kohl Center rafters on Feb. 9, UW announced on Thursday.
The Madison native became a U.S. hockey hero when he helped the Americans win the Olympic gold medal in 1980. That came after three seasons with the Badgers in which he won the NCAA championship as a freshman in 1977 and scored 125 goals in 125 games.
Johnson’s name is all over the UW record book, from the most points in a season (90 in 1978-79) to the most goals in a season (48 in 1977-78) to the most goals by a freshman (36 in 1976-77).
Since an 11-season NHL career ended in 1990, Johnson has made big contributions to UW through coaching. He was an assistant to Jeff Sauer from 1996 to 2002. When he wasn’t hired as Sauer’s replacement, he took over the Badgers women’s hockey team and this season became the all-time winningest Division I women’s coach.
Johnson’s Badgers women’s teams have won four NCAA championships.
“When I heard the news, I was very excited and certainly humbled by being recognized this way,” Johnson said in a news release. “It is certainly a big, big honor.
“I feel very fortunate that I had an opportunity to fulfill a childhood dream. I remember being a stick boy when I was 8 or 9 and watching Badger hockey for a lot of years on the bench hoping one day I would get to wear the jersey and play for the University of Wisconsin. I got the opportunity to do that and have great memories. This is going to be a great memory that I am extremely proud of and certainly my family is very proud of. It is going to be a very special night and I am looking forward to it. I can’t be more appreciative.”
The retirement of Johnson’s jersey — No. 10 will still be available for Badgers players to wear — comes after the men’s basketball program has honored two of its former players in the last two years.
Albert “Ab” Nicholas and Frank Kaminsky have their jersey numbers displayed at the Kohl Center during UW men’s basketball games.
When it came to be men’s hockey’s turn, Johnson’s name was at the top of the list.
“It is difficult to come up with someone who has made the kinds of contributions to the University of Wisconsin and the world of hockey as Mark Johnson, and we are fortunate we get to recognize everything he has accomplished on and off the ice,” UW athletic director Barry Alvarez said in a statement. “His years as a student-athlete and coach, as well as his international and professional playing and coaching careers makes us proud and happy that we can celebrate his legacy.”
Johnson’s jersey will be retired at the Feb. 9 game against Ohio State on the Bob Johnson Rink at the Kohl Center, a naming in honor of the former Badgers coach and Mark Johnson’s father in 2012.