He knew it was going to be an emotional night, but Mark Johnson said he was doing OK until his daughter Megan, away at school in Minnesota, appeared on the scoreboard with a videotaped message.
Then his other four children emerged onto the ice, each with a corner of the banner that carried his last name and the No. 10 that he wore in a record-setting, three-year career with the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team.
Johnson took a mental snapshot of the scene inside the sold-out Kohl Center as the kids stopped at center ice with the banner before bringing it over to be raised to the rafters at the north end.
“As I think back on it and I put that picture in the front of my head, it just floods memories of all different things that come down my way for a lot of years, and the journey that I’ve been on since we moved to Madison when I was 8,” Johnson said.
The most recent part of that journey was Johnson’s jersey being retired before Saturday’s Badgers game against No. 3 Ohio State, and that turned out to be the biggest highlight for UW fans.
Johnson scored a team-record 125 goals for the Badgers from 1976 to 1979, and the current UW team could have used a few out of him Saturday in a 4-1 loss to the Buckeyes.
Ohio State completed a sweep of the regular-season series with the Badgers and earned its sixth straight victory against UW.
“It was a special night for Mark and for our program,” Badgers coach Tony Granato said. “I was looking forward to our team having the opportunity to play in front of lots of people because I wanted to show off our team. And we did not perform up to our expectations, nor to our standards. So that part’s disappointing.”
And it was painful. Already playing without defenseman Tyler Inamoto, who was ejected late in the second period for head contact, the Badgers lost defenseman and leading scorer K’Andre Miller to a left leg injury in the third.
Miller crashed hard into the end boards on a short-handed rush and didn’t put any weight on his left leg as teammates helped him off the ice.
Granato didn’t have an update on Miller’s injury after the game.
The ceremony honoring Johnson took place on Bob Johnson Rink, named for his father, who coached the Badgers from 1966 to 1982.
With the Badgers men’s team and the women’s team that he now coaches on the ice, Mark Johnson’s number was raised next to the banner with his dad’s famous saying, “It’s a great day for hockey.”
“He was an encyclopedia, and I was a student of his,” Mark Johnson said of his father, who died from brain cancer in 1991. “And I got to watch a lot of things first-hand. Without his ability to teach the way he did and without his positive attitude, I never would have became the player I became.”
Johnson became an American hockey icon in the 1980 Olympics, leading the U.S. “Miracle on Ice” team in scoring.
After an 11-year NHL career, Johnson followed in his father’s footsteps and became a coach. He has won four NCAA championships and four national coach of the year awards in 16 seasons coaching the UW women’s team.
“The biggest reason I wanted to play for Wisconsin and the passion and love for Badger hockey that I knew at a young age was because of the fans,” Johnson said in his on-ice speech.
The Badgers played in front of an announced sellout crowd of 15,329 on Saturday, but Ohio State spoiled the festivities.
UW wasn’t able to summon a positive response to a 2-1 overtime loss a night earlier and fell to 1-7-2 in 2019.
Dakota Joshua scored in the first period for Ohio State, and Tommy Parran and Miguel Fidler made it 3-0 in the second as the first-place Buckeyes won their seventh straight.
The Badgers (9-14-5, 5-8-5-2 Big Ten Conference) had seven power plays but failed to convert for a seventh straight game. They’ve gone 25 opportunities without a goal.
Joshua put the Buckeyes (19-5-4, 12-3-3-2) ahead midway through the opening period when he stole the puck from Linus Weissbach in the Badgers’ defensive zone and fired a quick shot past Daniel Lebedeff (19 saves).
That came two minutes after Buckeyes goalie Tommy Nappier (29 saves) denied UW’s Jarod Zirbel on a short-handed breakaway.
“It’s always huge to get the first goal,” Buckeyes coach Steve Rohlik said. “And I think that was huge for us tonight.”
The Badgers got on the board late in the third with a Seamus Malone highlight-reel goal, but Mason Jobst scored into an empty net on Ohio State’s only shot on goal of the final period.
Ohio State 1 2 1 — 4
Wisconsin 0 0 1 — 1
First period: O — Joshua 9, 10:48. Penalties: Tischke, W, 2:53; Gerard, O, 4:44; Mersch, W, 7:04; Kearney, O, 13:19.
Second period: O — Parran 1 (Miller, Fidler), 6:36; Fidler 1 (Myer, Gabriele), 12:52. Penalties: Joshua, O, 6:58; Mersch, W, 9:32; Malone, W, 14:37; Fidler, O, 14:37; Miller, W, 16:06; Fidler, O, 16:47; Inamoto, W (major, game misconduct), 19:59.
Third period: W — Malone 7 (Emberson, Kalynuk), 18:20. O — Jobst 15, 19:59 (sh, en). Penalties: Meyer, O, 3:31; Baker, W, 10:46; Ahcan, W (double minor), 11:21; Meyer, O, 11:21; O’Connell, O, 18:20.
Saves: O (Nappier 10-11-8) 29; W (Lebedeff 8-11-0) 19. Power plays: O 0-for-7; W 0-for-7. Att. — 15,359.