By Rich Walsh

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Mike Johnston has made a name for himself pretty quickly here in Pittsburgh.

The new head coach has the Pittsburgh Penguins in prime position to make another Stanley Cup run. He recently sat down with KDKA-TV’s Rich Walsh for an exclusive interview.

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This is Johnston’s first NHL head coaching job, but divine intervention played a big part in his career.

Being an NHL head coach wasn’t Johnston’s first career choice.

“I went to school to become a teacher,” Johnston said. “That’s the path I thought I was going to follow.”

As fate would have it, and fortunately for the Penguins now, there weren’t any teaching jobs available for Johnston, so it was on to Plan B.

“There was a college opening at a small college in Alberta, Canada and they were looking for a young guy, who could teach and someone who could coach hockey,” Johnston said.

Johnston was only 23 at the time and had no prior coaching experience, but that small Canadian college took a chance on him.

That’s when Johnston’s career path changed for good. Fast forward almost 25 years and all the stars aligned for a chance at winning a Stanley Cup.

“We’ve got a very good team, very good players, players that can play that up-tempo style, which I enjoy playing,” he said.

Johnston has a unique approach to coaching. He is a one-of-a-kind hockey coach with a one-of-a-kind philosophy and it seems to be working.

“I thought, why don’t I try and look at other sports and what they do in soccer and see what they do in football and see if there’s any transfer,” Johnston said.

He also said he doesn’t limit his coaching techniques to only sports. He uses successful business strategies on the ice as well.

WEB EXTRA: Full interview with Mike Johnston:

“I try and take note of who’s been successful, whether it is a company or an individual. See if there is any transfer into the sport of hockey,” he said.

One thing you might not know, but will definitely appreciate, Johnston is a huge football fan.

He actually comes from a football family in his hometown in Nova Scotia. His father played and coached in Canada.

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This should come as no surprise. Johnston appreciates high-powered offenses, especially one in particular – the University of Oregon.

“The tempo that they play with, if we could play the game like that and really try to wear down the other teams. That’s what I tried to do when I came to Portland. We were pretty successful and how we played and it was comparable, at least in that state, to the way the Ducks play,” Johnston said.

So, Ducks and Penguins have a lot more in common now because of Johnston.

It also helps when you have an offensive talent like Sidney Crosby to lead your team

“I had heard about Sidney Crosby when he was 8 or 9-years-old,” he said.

Crosby and Johnston are both from the same area in Nova Scotia. Their houses are about two miles apart.

“It’s interesting how the hockey world works. I often said, ‘Wow, there’s not a lot of hockey players that come out of Nova Scotia.’ But, when I heard about this young guy, it seemed like nothing was going to stop him and that is Sidney Crosby. He is a very driven and focused individual,” Johnston said.

Crosby and Johnston make a good pair.

Johnston is also very driven and focused, but he does have a soft side, especially when it comes to good food.

One of the first questions Walsh asked was – Where would you go if your were going for a bite to eat?

Johnston enjoys eating in the city.

“To try different places and to try different foods and I find it’s a neat city. Everybody comes up with a different recommendation,” he said.

The Pens’ head coach’s favorite spot is Meat and Potatoes for Sunday brunch.

He also said he really likes Il Pizzaiolo in Market Square.

But, food isn’t his favorite thing about Pittsburgh.

“I remember the very first time we came in, as everyone does into Pittsburgh. If you’re coming from the airport, you ride through the tunnel and the city opens up to you. It’s a remarkable city,” he said.

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