"My approach is probably a little different from Herbie's," Johnson told FanHouse with a laugh. "But we are trying to do the same thing."
Johnson, the top scorer for that gold-medal US team in 1980, has earned a reputation as a calm, even-tempered presence while coaching the women's team at the University of Wisconsin. Brooks was demanding and hot-headed. Johnson's Olympic experience of 30 years ago will come in handy, though, even if he doesn't rant and rave in the locker room.
"You can apply a lot of different things from that experience," Johnson said by phone. "The time leading up to the games is very similar to what we're doing right now -- developing friendships, traveling around, having good days and bad days. We did that in 1980 and that's certainly helpful."
Johnson has won three of the past four NCAA titles while coaching the Wisconsin women, and he has seven Badgers on the U.S. squad, including standout goalie Jessie Vetter. His familiarity with such a big chunk of the roster isn't all that much of a factor, though, according to Johnson. "I don't look where they come from, school-wise," he said. "It's about having players who are good enough to be here, and then 'How can we make them better?' "
Right now, the U.S. team is just emerging from its real grind time, post-holidays but still not in hailing distance of Vancouver. There is a Qwest Tour game against Finland on Feb. 4 and a scrimmage against the Finns on Feb. 6, and then the team departs Feb. 7 for the Games. Their first game is on Feb. 14 against China.
On Thursday, the U.S. team named two-time Olympian Natalie Darwitz as captain, with Julie Chu (Fairfield, Conn.) and Angela Ruggiero (Simi Valley, Calif.) as the alternate captains. Darwitz was captain of the squad during the past two seasons but this will be her first Olympic captaincy. With 231 points, she's fourth on the all-time U.S. scoring list.
Like the 1980 men's team, the U.S. women are underdogs. Host Canada, the two-time defending gold medalist hockey team, is the favorite. The U.S., which last won a gold in Nagano, Japan, 12 years ago, has won three of its past 11 games against the Canadians -- but took the past two world championships and also won the Canada Cup last year.
Johnson called Canada "a good team, well prepared to win a gold medal," but he was quick to note that other countries are also in the hunt, including his own, which unlike the men's team in 1980 is a very strong bet for silver.
"That's what makes this so special," Johnson said of Olympics. "You drop the puck and participate in front of the world. It's awesome. It makes for great hockey."
Few would know better.