Updated: Former Acadia Axeman named Pittsburgh Penguins' head coach

Published on June 26, 2014

An Acadia alumnus will be behind the Pittsburgh Penguins’ bench this fall. 

The NHL team announced June 25 that Mike Johnston, who graduated from Acadia in 1978 with a bachelor of physical education, is the team’s new head coach.

Johnston, 57, played three seasons for the hockey Axemen while at Acadia – 1975 to 1978 - and was inducted into the Acadia Hockey Honour Roll in 2008 at the annual Axemen celebrity hockey dinner.

“It’s pretty awesome news,” Port Williams’ Mike Alcoe, who played with Johnston at Acadia, said after hearing the news.

 “Mike has previous experience dealing with players at that level. He’s run the program at Portland for a good many years. Alcoe, a longtime Axemen hockey assistant coach, coached against Johnston in the Atlantic university conference.  

“He’s paid his dues, and he should do a good job there,” Alcoe said.

Johnston also played for Brandon from 1978 to 1980 while studying toward an education degree ther. He also  holds a masters degree in kinesiology from the University of Calgary.

He began his coaching career at the age of 23, at Camrose College in Alberta, before moving on to the University of Calgary, where he was an assistant coach.

His first head coaching position was at the University of New Brunswick, where he coached for five years beginning in 1989.

The Dartmouth native has been an assistant coach with the Vancouver Canucks, associate coach of the Los Angeles Kings, and head coach and general manager of the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League for the past six years. 

He also has experience coaching with Team Canada at the Olympics, world championships and world junior championships.