Veteran women’s hockey coach Johnson tabbed to be next St. Thomas coach as Tommies enter D-I play in 2021-22

Joel Johnson has coached with the Minnesota women’s team the past 16 seasons (photo: Minnesota Athletics).

St. Thomas announced Monday that Joel Johnson will be its next women’s hockey head coach.

Johnson brings more than 20 years of coaching experience to the Tommies, both at the collegiate level as well as with USA Hockey. Having spent 16 seasons in the WCHA, Johnson will lead St. Thomas’ move into Division I play, which starts this fall.

“I am delighted to welcome Joel Johnson and his family to the University of St. Thomas,” said St. Thomas director of athletics Phil Esten in a statement. “Through our national search that spanned an impressive pool of candidates, it became clear that Joel is the right individual to lead our women’s hockey program, now and into the future. He epitomizes what it means to be a Tommie as a relationship-focused servant leader that develops his student-athletes both on and off the ice.”

With a championship pedigree, Johnson brings a focus on culture, servant leadership, and student-athlete development.

“First, I would like to thank Dr. Sullivan and Dr. Esten for this great opportunity,” said Johnson. “In my conversations with each of them I have been so impressed first with the overall direction of the University of St. Thomas, and specifically the bold and impressive commitments shown as the department of athletics transitions to Division I status.

“The women’s hockey program has a great foundation of success, and I look forward to continue building upon that. I believe St. Thomas is uniquely positioned to attract and develop the very best student-athletes not only from the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota, but from across North America. The excellence in educational opportunities along with the campus-life experience creates an atmosphere that is unique and exceptional. I couldn’t be more excited for our student-athletes as they combine that great atmosphere along with an athletic experience that is second to none. We will be a passionate group of players and staff committed to a faith-filled, value-driven adventure that pursues excellence and championships both on and off the ice.”

In addition to serving as St. Thomas’ third women’s hockey head coach in program history, Johnson is also currently the interim head coach of USA Hockey’s women’s national team. He has spent the last 11 seasons with USA Hockey, serving in many capacities. Most recently, Johnson was the assistant coach for the women’s national team from 2018 to 2020 and was a key member of teams that won gold medals at the 2018 Four Nations Cup and the 2019 IIHF World Championship. Additionally, he was head coach of numerous U22 and U18 National Teams from 2014 to 2018.

Johnson’s collegiate experience includes time at both the Division I and Division III level. He has spent the last 11 seasons at Minnesota as associate head coach for the women’s program. Johnson was also an assistant coach for the Gophers for five seasons from 1999 to 2004 before spending time with the the Bethel men’s program from 2004 to 2010. He also spent time coaching men’s and women’s golf, as well as men’s and women’s soccer at Bethel.

Johnson will be formally introduced at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.