Tom Johnson owns a rare distinction among the many exceptional hockey defencemen with roots in Manitoba. In 1958-59 he won the Norris trophy as the NHL’s outstanding rearguard, and nobody else from this province can make that claim to date.
Born and raised in Baldur, he played all of his minor hockey there until his family moved to St. Vital in 1946. He joined Winnipeg junior Monarchs for the 1946-47 season (the year after the Monarchs won the Memorial Cup), and quickly was dubbed “the Baldur Basher” for his solid, aggressive play on the blueline. Johnson jumped to the Montreal Royals of the Quebec senior league. “It was the smartest career move I may have made,” he said. “I got a chance to practise at times in the Montreal Forum with the Canadiens, and played one NHL game with the parent team in that 1947-48 winter.”
After two years of seasoning with Buffalo in the American Hockey League, Johnson was elevated to the Canadiens in 1950-51 and was on his way to a brilliant 15-year NHL career. He had 51 goals and 213 assists and played 978 games in 13 seasons with Montreal and two with Boston. He earned a second team NHL All-Star selection in 1956, and made the first team in 1959. Johnson named Montreal’s NHL record fifth straight Stanley Cup victory in 1959-60 as his career high point. “That may never be duplicated,” he said. “We had a cast of characters under general manager Frank Selke and coach Toe Blake that changed very little in that five-year period. The team had great rapport and confidence, and expected to win each season.”
When his playing days ended with Boston in 1965, Tom Johnson served the Bruins in every capacity from scout to vice president. He coached the Bruins for two seasons and part of a third, winning the Stanley Cup with his 1971-72 team. He was inducted into the NHL Hockey Hall of Fame in 1976.
b. February 28, 1928