Hall of Fame defenseman Johnson dies at age 79

Updated: November 22, 2007, 8:50 PM ET
Associated Press

BOSTON -- Tom Johnson, the Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman who coached the Boston Bruins to their last Stanley Cup title in 1972, has died. He was 79.

The Bruins said Thursday that Johnson died Wednesday at his Falmouth home. The team didn't disclose the cause of death.

Tom Johnson
Dave Sandford/Getty ImagesHall of Famer Tom Johnson won five Stanley Cup titles as a player and one while coach of the Bruins.

The former Montreal and Boston defenseman was a player, coach and executive with the Bruins for more than three decades until he retired in 1998.

"If we all are allowed an ultimate friend, mentor, confidant and teacher, Tom Johnson was all of those to me," said Harry Sinden, Boston's former coach and general manager who is now an adviser. "The Bruins and all of hockey have lost a great person."

Johnson, a native of Baldur, Manitoba, played 15 years for Montreal, helping the Canadiens win six Stanley Cups -- including five straight from 1956-60. He also won the 1958-59 Norris Trophy as the NHL's top defenseman.

"Tom Johnson did it all," former Bruins coach Don Cherry said. "He played and won six Stanley Cups, he coached Stanley Cups, he won a Norris Trophy, he's in the Hall of Fame -- what else can you do in hockey?"

Former Canadiens scoring star Dickie Moore lamented that only five players remain among those who played on all five straight Cup winners -- himself, Talbot, Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard and Don Marshall.

"He'll be missed," Moore said. "We had a lot of fun together. He had a hell of a life in hockey."

Johnson and former defensive partner Jean-Guy Talbot got together with some former teammates for a tribute during the Stanley Cup finals last spring in Ottawa.

"Jean-Guy used to keep records," Johnson recalled at the reunion. "He told me we went 23 games without a goal being scored against us one time, but I think the goaltender [Jacques Plante] had something to do with that."

The Bruins claimed Johnson from Montreal in the 1963 waiver draft, and he played two seasons in Boston until a leg injury ended his career in 1965.

Johnson moved into the Bruins' front office as an assistant to general manager Milt Schmidt. He succeeded Sinden as head coach after Boston won the 1970 title and led the team to consecutive 50-plus win seasons, culminating with the 1972 Stanley Cup.

His .738 winning percentage is the best in team history.

He returned to the front office in 1973 as assistant general manager, then in 1979 became vice president. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970.

Johnson is survived by wife Doris, son Tommy and daughter Julie.

Funeral arrangements are pending.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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