University of Wisconsin women's hockey coach Mark Johnson knows that his latest extracurricular assignment probably raised an eyebrow or two.
USA Hockey announced last week that Johnson would be one of the head coaches for the second annual All-American Prospects game to be staged Sept. 26 in Pittsburgh.
It seems a bit curious that Johnson, who has overseen the UW women's program since 2002 and has led it to four NCAA titles, would take an assignment geared toward the men's side.
The prospects game features 40 of the top American-born players eligible for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, which will be held at the Consol Energy Center and hosted by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Johnson, who coached Team USA in the 2010 Winter Olympics on the women's side, said there are no ulterior motives at work here. Just a bow to history and the desire to give UW more exposure.
The Johnson family has strong links to Pittsburgh. Mark made his NHL debut with the Penguins and played there from 1979 to '82. His late father, Bob, coached in Pittsburgh and was part of two Stanley Cup-winning clubs in 1991 and '92.
Joe Mullen, a member of those two Cup champions, was tabbed as the other coach for the prospects game.
Mark Johnson is a former UW men's assistant who pursued the men's job when Mike Eaves was hired in 2002. Johnson also interviewed for the men's opening at Penn State when Guy Gadowsky was hired in 2011.
Johnson said he got the blessing of UW deputy athletic director Sean Frazier, who oversees men's and women's hockey, after explaining the benefits to the school.
"I just think those types of events give you exposure that otherwise you can't (get),'' said Johnson, who has led the UW women's team to six NCAA title games since 2006. "You can talk about Wisconsin. You can talk about Wisconsin hockey. It helps.''