USA Hockey announced that Mark Johnson, current head coach of the University of Wisconsin women's team--a perennial powerhouse, will be the women's national team coach next season. As in the 2010 Olympic season. So Johnson is the new Olympic coach basically. He will take over the Blaine residency program where current national team prospects (who are not committed to college teams) are currently training. And he will coach the team at the next Four Nations Cup in Finland in November.
Johnson certainly has the credentials. He has coached the national team before. He has experience coaching the men's national team and, of course, he was a pivotal part of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team and a former NHLer.
But still the choice surprises me for several reasons. First, when long-time coach Ben Smith left the position of head coach he advocated for a female head coach. Yet Johnson was the first replacement for Smith at the Four Nations Cup in 2006. Also, USA Hockey has been trying out different head coaches since the last Olympics. And these people have had some success. Katey Stone, Harvard's head coach, took the team to a win at the last Four Nations Cup (beating Canada). And Jackie Barto of Ohio State lead the team to a World Championship (beating Canada) last spring--an accomplishment not many others can claim. In other words, these two women have big wins over rival Canada in the very recent past--with teams that will likely contain many of the 2010 players.
But it's possible these positions were never tryouts for the head position. Johnson's Wikipedia entry states that he was always slated to be head coach through the 2010 games.
Still, it's a little disappointing that USA Hockey cannot get behind a female coach.