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Panel picks Badgers' Mark Johnson as WCHA's top player of the 1970s

Panel picks Badgers' Mark Johnson as WCHA's top player of the 1970s

Watching it Rise

Former University of Wisconsin men’s hockey player and current UW women’s coach Mark Johnson watches as a banner is raised marking the retirement of Johnson's number 10 jersey at the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis. Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL

The University of Wisconsin men's hockey team had a few stars in the 1970s, the decade when it came of age. In retrospect, none was as big as Mark Johnson.

Johnson was named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's Player of the Decade for the 1970s on Thursday as part of the league's celebration of 70 years.

Johnson joined Badgers defenseman Craig Norwich on the all-decade team released Monday. The center scored 125 goals in 125 games over three seasons with UW (1976-79) before skipping his final season to play with the U.S. in the 1980 Olympics.

His career total of 256 points is second among Badgers players only to Mike Eaves, who had 267 in 160 games from 1974 to 1978. Johnson has UW's only collegiate career with an average of more than two points per game.

Johnson, who helped the Badgers to their second NCAA title in 1977, has won five national championships as head coach of the UW women's hockey team since 2002. He had an 11-year NHL career after winning the Olympic gold in 1980.

Johnson is the only UW men's hockey player to have his jersey retired; that event took place in 2019.

His father, Bob, coached the Badgers from 1966 to 1982, first helping get the team a spot in the WCHA and then establishing it at the national level.

"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 in a prepared statement. "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."

The all-decade picks were made by panel of current and former WCHA staffers and media members who have covered the WCHA. Minnesota's John Mayasich was the pick for the 1950s and Minnesota Duluth's Keith Christiansen was voted the top player of the 1960s.

Photos: A look back at the hockey career of Mark Johnson

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