by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com
The 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team and their upset of the mighty Soviets on their way to Gold was named the greatest sports moment of the century. I will be writing regularly here on how coach Herb Brooks put together that team, his recruiting as a college coach, and lessons we can learn from him and the miracle on ice.
When Herb Brooks took over as head coach of the University of Minnesota hockey program in 1972, they were last place in their conference. They had gone 8-24 the year before he came aboard. He coached them to a 15-16-3 record in his first year and, get this, guided them to 3 NCAA D1 national championships in the next 7 years!
Although many college hockey powers got their players from Canada back in the 1970’s, Herb made the decision to recruit only Minnesota players. While they may not have had the skill, he recruited for toughness and loyalty. He also knew kids from Minnesota would care more about representing their state University.
In Ross Bernstein’s book, America’s Coach, Don Micheletti shares the story of when Herb was recruiting him. Herb first offered him a half scholarship. Don told Herb that Colorado College had offered him a full, but that playing for Minnesota meant so much he would take the half. Herb smiled and said he had a full scholarship for him the whole time but he wanted to see how badly Don wanted to be a Gopher.
Herb was big on home visits. He watched carefully to see how players acted around their parents. Values. He wanted kids with values. He was big on kids that had been captains in high school. He was big on muscle as he liked his teams to have an intimidating feel to them.
Herb knew it would take a couple of recruiting classes to take the program to new levels, but from day one he told his current players they could learn to get tougher immediately.
In future articles here, I will share how he recruited and put together the 1980 Miracle on Ice team. For now, I will end with this story of one of the kids he recruited at Minnesota. The team had a stretch where Herb told the players there would be no going out and certainly no beer. A player named Jim Boo had a Dad who came to town. They decided to go out to a pub near the hotel for some brews. The waitress came over with a beer and said it was for Jim and paid for by a customer. Jim thought it had to be a pretty lady, as he was a good looking hockey player. Well, he looked across to the bar and there was Herb Brooks staring at him. Herb had a look that would go through you forever.
Jim gulped. Herb walked over and said he would see him at the rink at 6 am the next morning. For two hours, Herb skated Jim to the brink of annihilation. There was throw up all over the place. Finally, Herb skated over to the slumping player and said, “How’s that beer tasting now?”
Motivational Speaker Charlie Adams delivers his More Than a Miracle program to college coaches and athletes. He explains how the 1980 Miracle on Ice was not so much a miracle as it was work ethic, remarkable vision and leadership, commitment to change, commitment to team, and perseverance.
Charlie can be reached at StokeTheFireWithin.com and at firstname.lastname@example.org