After three national championships, Santa Margarita coach Johnson steps aside, will remain consultant
Santa Margarita Catholic High School head coach Craig Johnson has resigned from his position, effective immediately.
Johnson said he is currently unable to devote the time needed to coach at SMCHS, but will serve as a consultant for the program during 2020-21 season.
Johnson led the Eagles (Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League) to three national titles in 2013, 2018 and 2019. In 2015 and 2017, the team took silver and in 2011, bronze.
Santa Margarita is California’s only USA Hockey national varsity champion.
The program has also won four state titles and three ADHSHL Division 1 championships, to go along with a .700 winning percentage in the program’s 11-year history with Johnson at the helm.
Alumni continue to have success beyond SMCHS. Players have gone on to play NCAA Division I hockey, while Ryan Johnson (Craig Johnson’s son), was a first-round draft selection in the 2019 NHL Draft by the Buffalo Sabres and Annie Pankowski is a two-time world championship gold medalist.
“I cannot say thank you enough to Coach Johnson for the tremendous impact he has made as the founding coach in the program’s 11-year history and the longest-tenured coach in ADHSHL history,” SMCHS vice president Sammer Darwazeh said. “He has played a key role in building a solid foundation for this fantastic program to grow and has been a true leader and model for every Eagle who has had the opportunity to represent SM and play for him. We appreciate his numerous contributions and accomplishments that have made a lasting impact on SMCHS, our nationally-recognized ice hockey program and growing youth hockey in California. I am grateful Coach Johnson will remain a member of the ice hockey coaching staff as the program consultant for the 2020-21 season.”
Johnson is a 10-season NHL veteran and former U.S. Olympian. He spent most of his career playing for the Los Angeles Kings and played for the Anaheim Ducks in 2003-04. He led the SMCHS team from its inception in 2009, helping to grow the program while establishing a winning culture and developing players’ skills and confidence.
“My family and I are grateful to Santa Margarita’s leadership and the organization for the past 11 seasons,” Johnson said. “We made great strides together with building the hockey program, and I am very proud of our school and players’ accomplishments. Santa Margarita is a special place to my family and me. All three of my children attended the school, and I was able to coach both of my boys in the program. It was because of the players that Santa Margarita hockey was more than a hockey program but a family.”
The school’s varsity Division 1 and Division 3 teams compete in the ADHSHL and California Amateur Hockey Association, as well as North American Elite Invitational Tournaments and Showcases. The Eagles call the new $110 million Great Park Ice and FivePoint Arena in Irvine their home. Ice hockey activities, practices, exclusive locker-room access, and the strength and conditioning program are held in the premier facility.
An immediate and thorough head coach search is underway. In the interim, assistant coach Ladislav Kohn will oversee on-ice training. Kohn is a Czech former professional hockey forward who played in the NHL for the Calgary Flames, Toronto Maple Leafs, Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Atlanta Thrashers and the Detroit Red Wings. Kaelin Groon, who played NCAA hockey for UMass Dartmouth, and Jason Marshall, a 12-year defenseman in the NHL, including eight seasons with the Ducks, will continue to serve as assistant coaches.
(Sept. 8, 2020)