Hall of Fame defenseman Johnson dies at age 79

BOSTON -- Tom Johnson, the Hockey Hall of Fame defenseman
who coached the Boston Bruins to their last Stanley Cup title in
1972, has died. He was 79.

The Bruins said Thursday that Johnson died Wednesday at his
Falmouth home. The team didn't disclose the cause of death.

The former Montreal and Boston defenseman was a player, coach
and executive with the Bruins for more than three decades until he
retired in 1998.

"If we all are allowed an ultimate friend, mentor, confidant
and teacher, Tom Johnson was all of those to me," said Harry
Sinden, Boston's former coach and general manager who is now an
adviser. "The Bruins and all of hockey have lost a great person."

Johnson, a native of Baldur, Manitoba, played 15 years for
Montreal, helping the Canadiens win six Stanley Cups -- including
five straight from 1956-60. He also won the 1958-59 Norris Trophy
as the NHL's top defenseman.

"Tom Johnson did it all," former Bruins coach Don Cherry said.
"He played and won six Stanley Cups, he coached Stanley Cups, he
won a Norris Trophy, he's in the Hall of Fame -- what else can you
do in hockey?"

Former Canadiens scoring star Dickie Moore lamented
that only five players remain among those who played on all five
straight Cup winners -- himself, Talbot, Jean Beliveau, Henri
Richard and Don Marshall.

"He'll be missed," Moore said. "We had a lot of fun together.
He had a hell of a life in hockey."

Johnson and former defensive partner Jean-Guy Talbot got
together with some former teammates for a tribute during the
Stanley Cup finals last spring in Ottawa.

"Jean-Guy used to keep records," Johnson recalled at the
reunion. "He told me we went 23 games without a goal being scored
against us one time, but I think the goaltender [Jacques Plante]
had something to do with that."

The Bruins claimed Johnson from Montreal in the 1963 waiver
draft, and he played two seasons in Boston until a leg injury ended
his career in 1965.

Johnson moved into the Bruins' front office as an assistant to
general manager Milt Schmidt. He succeeded Sinden as head coach
after Boston won the 1970 title and led the team to consecutive
50-plus win seasons, culminating with the 1972 Stanley Cup.

His .738 winning percentage is the best in team history.

He returned to the front office in 1973 as assistant general
manager, then in 1979 became vice president. He was inducted into
the Hall of Fame in 1970.

Johnson is survived by wife Doris, son Tommy and daughter Julie.

Funeral arrangements are pending.