Posted Friday, February 7, 2014 ----- 6:15 p.m.
A man in our own backyard knows the Olympics very well, having both played a sport and coached during the games. When Mark Johnson was young, he never imagined he'd one day represent team USA out on the ice at the Olympics. He explained, "you dream about it." Hockey has always been his outlet, growing with the sport, remembering his special experiences as a child playing youth hockey.
Johnson says, "unique because you compete against an opponent and then you stay at their home that night, and get up the next day and play against them again." Johnson grew and continued to get better in the sport. At 18-years-old, he made the 1976 Olympic team, coached by his father. "I got a chance to be a part of that team for about six to eight weeks as a high school player and then on a Sunday night my dad cut me," he said with a laugh.
But he had his chance to shine, and that he did, helping take his team to victory in 1980; in one of the greatest moments in sports history. "We drove out of there with gold medals and life changed for everybody," Johnson said.
Movies made about this team; instant fame for the players. "You're going into all of these cities, and you are a story. It impacted a lot of us in a positive way," he explained. "It impacted history, at the time we had no idea."
And his Olympic accomplishments didn't stop there; switching roles off the ice, to coach; leading the women's team to silver in 2010. "There's a lot more pressure on a coach in regards to trying to put this team together and make sure it gels and it peaks at the right time," said Johnson. Knowing that his player's lives are forever changed, the moment they step on the ice.
"You've got a chance to represent your country. And you can take memories from those two weeks that you can have for the rest of your life," he explained.
Mark Johnson does have his gold medal displayed in his home; he keeps a close eye on it; and he needs to. He told us his youngest daughter once took it to second grade show and tell class without asking Dad first.