Winterhawks lose coach/GM to NHL's Penguins - KPTV - FOX 12

Winterhawks lose coach/GM to NHL's Penguins

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The National Hockey League's Pittsburgh Penguins have announced the hiring of Portland Winterhawks General Manager & Head Coach Mike Johnston as their new head coach.

Johnston took over the Winterhawks' hockey operations in October 2008 and quickly turned the franchise into one of the elite teams in the Western Hockey League. He compiled a record of 231-114-10-10 behind the bench, with four straight Western Conference championships and the 2013 Ed Chynoweth Cup as Western Hockey League champions.

His 231 wins as a coach are second in team history behind only Ken Hodge, while his winning percentage of .660 is first among all Hawks coaches who spent at least 100 games behind the bench. 

"I'm excited about the opportunity to coach the Pittsburgh Penguins, this has been a dream of mine since I started coaching," said Johnston. "Without Portland this wouldn't have been possible and I am truly grateful to Bill Gallacher, the players and staff I have worked with over the last six years. The time has gone by fast but it will always be memorable."

"On behalf of Bill Gallacher and the entire Winterhawks organization, we wish Mike the very best in Pittsburgh," said Portland Winterhawks President Doug Piper. "Mike's accomplishments in turning this organization into a perennial championship contender are second to none, and he is leaving us with a great infrastructure that we believe will allow our success to continue."

After taking over in October 2008, Johnston then led the Hawks to the biggest turnaround in franchise history in 2009-10, as the team improved by 48 points and clinched their first playoff berth in four years, advancing to the second round of the playoffs.

The following season in 2010-11, the Winterhawks won the U.S. Division and earned their first 100-point season since 1997-98 and first of four straight Western Conference titles. They appeared in the WHL Championship again in 2011-12, advancing to Game 7 vs. the Edmonton Oil Kings.

In 2012-13, the Hawks put together one of the greatest seasons in WHL history. They set franchise records in wins (57) and points (117), and won the U.S. Division title and the Scotty Munro Trophy as regular season champions. They won their third straight Western Conference Championship and defeated the Oil Kings in six games to win the WHL title and a spot in the MasterCard Memorial Cup, where they advanced to the championship game.

In 2013-14, the Winterhawks set a franchise record with a 21-game winning streak, winning the U.S. Division once again and their fourth straight appearance in the WHL championship series, making them just the fourth team in league history and first since 1978 to win four straight conference titles. The Hawks made it to Game 7 of the Final against the Oil Kings, the third straight time the two teams met in the championship series. Portland also became just the third team in league history to produce three straight 100-point seasons.

In addition to the incredible team success, the Winterhawks had 20 players selected in the NHL Draft during Johnston's tenure, including six in the first round. Already, six of those players have seen NHL action: Ryan Johansen, Nino Niederreiter, Sven Baertschi, Tyler Wotherspoon, Ty Rattie and Seth Jones.

Under Johnston the Winterhawks also became a leader in the players' educational efforts, with all players, including college players, taking courses to further their education. Those efforts led to the Hawks being named the 2012-13 WHL Scholastic Team of the Year.

Release from Portland Winterhawks.

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