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Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, November 17th, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

You win college championships when you recruit players like Jack O’Callahan.

The greatest moment in United States sports history was when the 1980 Miracle on Ice U.S. Olympic hockey team beat the dynasty Soviet team in Lake Placid, NY, and then won Gold two days later. They did it because Coach Herb Brooks had molded teams with players such as O’Callahan.

O’Callahan grew up in Charlestown, Massachusetts by Boston. His house was close to Bunker Hill. O’Callahan’s approach to sports was Bunker Hill. In 1775 greatly outnumbered Patriot soldiers twice held back the Redcoats. Not until the third wave did they have to retreat. In the process they took out half the British forces.

O’Callahan graduated fifth from Latin High School in Boston, the oldest public school in America. Benjamin Franklin and John Adams went there. Smart as a whip, O’Callahan also had a burning passion for hockey and to win a national championship. Harvard offered him. He turned them down for Boston University because he felt they offered a better chance for a great education and a national title.

O’Callahan lost about ten teeth and had around 100 stitches during his BU days. He left it all out there, and was an incredible inspiration to his teammates. He truly took the Bunker Hill approach.

Olympic coach Herb Brooks had done extensive research of college players while he was coach at the University of Minnesota. He had made countless calls to college coaches to learn things like the fire within of O’Callahan. During the seven month stretch of training for the February 1980 Games, Brooks went to him and said that when he yelled at him while calling him O’Cee (his nickname) he was speaking to the whole team, but when he yelled at him saying Jack he was getting on him.

After 61 exhibition games, their last was in Madison Square Garden vs the powerful Soviets three days before the Olympics. Team USA got whalloped 10-3 and O’Callahan suffered a knee injury. It looked pretty bad. Herb had to submit the 20 player Olympic roster in 48 hours, a roster that could not be changed. The Team USA committee pressured him to bring in someone else. After a few diagnos’ on the knee, one Doctor said there was a chance he could play after a couple of games if therapy went right.

Herb went to O’Callahan and told him there were 19 other guys looking for him to do what was best for the team. O’Cee nodded, sadly. Herb then said that was why he was going to keep him on the roster. If he couldn’t play then his fire and passion would be important. O’Callahan was beyond jubilant.

Mike Eruzione said later that move was huge in them winning gold. It sent such a jolt of positivity through them, as they had become such a family.

O’Callahan did miss a couple of games, but played the rest of the way. He was not 100% but he was out there. He paid the price. He had to give up his first season of NHL hockey because of playing on the wounded knee. He could have risked his entire pro future had he had it hurt again, but he wanted to be there for his team.

Recruiting players like Jack O’Callahan are pivotal in building championship college programs.

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 charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, November 10th, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

Jim Craig’s family didn’t have enough money to get him a hockey chest protector when he was little, so he made do with a baseball catcher’s protector for awhile. He borrowed skates and put cardboard in them to fill the space.

Growing up in a home of 8 brothers and sisters and 1 bathroom near Boston, Jim had a dream of being in the Olympics one day. In 7th grade his teacher asked him what he was writing over and over. He said he was practicing his autograph for when he got to the Olympics.

His mother, Margaret, drove him to practice against older boys in nearby Boston when he was a 5’1″ middle schooler. She sharpened his skates and told him even small people make the Olympics.

As a 5’5″ 10th grader he kept working, practicing blocking hundreds of shots after practice. No major colleges wanted him so he played a year at a Massachusetts Community College. Boston University saw him and was interested but told him they had a veteran goalie and a star freshman coming in. He told them he had seen them both and they were good but that he was better.

He grew to 6’1″ and as a junior led Boston University to the National Championship. His mother became sick, though, and died of cancer. She made him promise to get his degree and if he had the chance to play in the Olympics. She said she would leave him her strength for when he needed it most.

Herb Brooks built the 1980 Miracle on Ice team not with the best players in the country but with the right ones. Experts had 5 goalies rated above Craig, but Herb saw the fire within and went with him every second of the Olympics. On Feb. 22, 1980 – George Washington’s birthday and the 30 year anniversary of the Disney movie ‘Cinderella’ – against a Soviet team many feel was the greatest hockey team ever assembled, Jim and his mother’s strength stopped 36 of 39 shots in the 4-3 win. Author Wayne Coffey said it was arguably the greatest performance under pressure in the annals of Olympic history and that it forever redefined the parameters of athletic possibility.

One of the biggest points I try to get across in this new Talk is that the Miracle on Ice was not a miracle, but earned, and that every company, school and church organization out there is capable of amazing things if they follow their fascinating template. In his book Gold Medal Strategies goalie Jim Craig opens with this:

“Miracles are inspiring; they give us hope, support the notion that all is possible, and are the stuff of high level drama. What we accomplished on that sheet of ice in that village in the Adirondacks in upstate New York was all of that. But it was not a miracle – even if I believe in them. Highly improbable? Yep. Astounding? Maybe. Shocking? You could say that.

But not a miracle.

What we accomplished at Lake Placid was the result of a lot of hard work – and a lot of smart work. It was the result of exceptional and brilliant mentorship. It was the result of sublime execution and poise in competition. It was the result of one of the best demonstrations of team chemistry in history.” – Jim Craig, goalie, Team USA 1980

He then shares insights on their make up:

“If you look at the makeup of the team, and go into the formative years of each player and each coach, you will discover a history rich with caring parents and supportive mentors. You will find virtues and strong community. What you won’t find is a lot of money, luxury, indulgence, or downtime.

This upbringing was just the right clay and raw material from which could be molded and constructed a team that would work and sacrifice enough, would be tough enough, would have enough confidence, would not collapse under setback and defeat, which would have just enough respect for authority, and be just open and receptive enough to coaching and mentoring (while never sacrificing our edge and spirit), to take on the world and set a standard for overachievement.” – Jim Craig, goalie, 1980 Miracle on Ice team

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 charlie@stokethefirewithin.com

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, November 3rd, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

Having studied college sports for many years, I feel strongly that multi sport athletes make up the most competitive college athletes. However, we are in the day of ‘specialization’ and although most college coaches want multi sport players, they are becoming fewer and farther between.

The greatest moment in United Sports history was made up by a bunch of multi sport kids. You would think to beat the incredible Soviet hockey team of 1980 it would take a U.S. roster of kids that had done nothing but play hockey from the time they were little. Hardly the case. Team USA beat a Soviet team that had won the last 4 Olympics by outscoring opponents 175-44 AND that had destroyed the NHL All Stars 6-0 in 1979. They did so with all kinds of multi sport kids.

Steve Janaszak was the backup goalie to Jim Craig. Before being 1st team All America goalie at the University of Minnnesota, Janaszak lettered in hockey, football, golf and soccer at Hill-Murray High School in St. Paul. That’s right, a 4 sport athlete.

Mike Eruzione made the biggest goal, run, hit, basketball or touchdown in United States sports history when he scored the winning goal in Team USA’s historic 4-3 over the Soviets on February 22, 1980. He was also a standout in baseball and football in high school in Winthrop, Massachusetts. He had more interest from D1 schools as a football player than a hockey player. Eruzione made plays, no matter what sport he played. He scored 3 goals in less than 2 minutes in the state hockey title game. In Tim Wendel’s book ‘Going for the Gold’ the author reveals that Eruzione built Three Cousins Field by their modest home while growing up. They competed fiercely in stick ball, basketball, football and street hockey with certain branches meaning home runs and trees for field goal posts.

Buzz Schneider scored the first goal in Team USA’s 4-3 win over the Soviets. Buzz was considered a better baseball player than hockey player at Babbitt High in Minnesota. He played quarterback, defensive back and was kicker on their football team. Schneider got a college baseball scholarship offer but signed with Minnesota where he played hockey and baseball his freshman year.

Eric Strobel led Minnesota high school hockey in scoring before going to the University of Minnesota and then making the Olympic team. Strobel, who coach Herb Brooks called the best pure skater he ever had, was also a standout baseball and football player at his Rochester, MN high school.

Bill Baker scored with :28 left in the opening Olympic game vs Sweden to salvage a 2-2 tie. Had Team USA lost that game it’s doubtful they would have ever made it to the medal round and the Soviet game. Besides playing hockey growing up, Baker was a tight end and defensive end on his high school football team and was a standout in baseball.

John Harrington liked playing high school football better than hockey.

Rob McLanahan was another 3 sport high school athlete, playing soccer and tennis as well as hockey. He got multiple D1 offers for tennis as well as hockey.

Jim Craig’s experience as a catcher in baseball helped him stop 36 of 39 Soviet shots the night of the 4-3 win. Growing up in North Easton, Massachusetts money was tight for the Craig family. He had to use a baseball catcher’s chest pad for awhile as a young hockey player until the family could save enough to but him hockey gear.

With 10 long minutes to go and the US up 4-3 over the Soviets, Mark Wells was assigned to shadow Valeri Kharlamov, who had it not been for injuries in a car accident later in his career could have been as good as Wayne Gretzkey. Wells was a ferocious competitor. While growing up near Detroit, part of his fire came from also playing baseball. Even though he was just 5’8″ he made it to the final round of the national Pitch, Hit and Run competition at Yankee Stadium. He came in second to a kid by the name of Orel Hershiser.

Coach Herb Brooks was an exceptional first baseman while also leading Johnson High in St. Paul to the 1955 state championship.

Sports Illustrated named the Miracle on Ice the greatest sports moment of the 20th century. It was won not with kids who played Travel Hockey almost all year. It was not won with kids who specialized in hockey at an early age. It was won with 3 sport kids who became spectacular competitors because they played multiple sports. Because they were always playing different sports, they knew how to make plays and they truly knew how to competite.

In today’s world, kids face pressure to pick a sport at an early age and specialize. Is that the route to being the best they can be in college and beyond. Absolutely NOT! The proof is in the team that stands above all others in United States sports – the 1980 U.S. hockey team.

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, October 27th, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

I have always encouraged college coaches to not only get the movie Miracle on DVD but to make sure it has the extras on it. On the second disc is a war-room type conversation the producers of the movie and actor Kurt Russell had with coach Herb Brooks in 2002. It was less than a year before Brooks would be killed in a car accident.

They asked Herb to share behind the scenes information on how he built the 1980 US Olympic hockey team and led it to the greatest sports moment of the 20th century – the stunning 4-3 upset of the Soviets and the gold medal two days later in Lake Placid, NY.

Here is what Herb had to say on a variety of topics.

On his approach: “A lot of the players have said they have never been pushed as hard. I wasn’t trying to put greatness into them. I was trying to pull it out. I have never agreed with coaches that are trying to put greatness into players because the coaches think they have all the right answers. I believed in setting very high standards for them and pulling it out. I think my favorite coach John Wooden would concur with that approach.”

On how badly he wanted to coach the 1980 US Olympic hockey team: “How bad? Really bad. The main reason I coached seven seasons at the University of Minnesota was to hopefully coach in the Olympics. That was my passion.”

On how they were successful: “I had to steal from the style of play the Soviets, Czechs and Swedes were doing. Their style of hockey was better than ours. Out of the top ten NHL players today (this interview was done in 2002) nine are European. We also had to focus on conditioning. In the past US teams could play with them for two periods and then hit the wall. We were not going to hit the wall.”

On his mind games and keeping 26 players almost to the end knowing 20 would go to Lake Placid: “I kept them on the bubble up until the end. I played mind games with (goalie) Jim Craig up until the Olympics. We played the Soviets in an exhibition three days before the Games. I said, ‘Jimmy I have played you too long over the last few months. Your curve ball is hanging. Gotta play Janny (the backup). I see flaws with you. It’s not your fault. It’s mine. I played you too long.’ Well, Jim got right up next to me and said ‘I’ll show you.’ Halfway through the Soviet exhibition game I yanked him in front of 18,000 (at Madison Square Garden). He was livid. I didn’t sit him in the Olympics. I played him right through, the whole time. After we won gold he put his finger in my chest and said ‘I showed you.’ I told him that yes he did.”

On keeping defenseman Jack O’Callahan on the 20 man roster even though he hurt his knee three days before the Olympics and was questionable to play: “I kept him because he was very important to the chemistry of the team. His passion, even his spirit during the playing of the National Anthem. I even went to him during our training season and said ‘if I say OC (his nickname) when I yell at you during practice I am yelling at you because I want the team to get the point. If I call you Jack while yelling it is about you.’ He was just so good.” (Mike Eruzione has said since that Herb keeping O’Callahan on the roster rather than replacing him was huge)

On the exhibition game vs Norway in September where he put them through Herbies for an hour after an exhibition game: “They were individuals at that time (September of 1979). They were listening to their agents about turning pro. I had to draw the line. They didn’t take the Norway team serious and didn’t respect the opposition. I told them we would get our work done in the game or after the game. Would I do it again? Probably not, but I think it was the moment when they realized they had to come to work every day and there would be no nights off.” (goalie Jim Craig has said the team had flown to Europe that day and already had a two hour practice before playing the game and then an hour of Herbies)

At the Univ of Minnesota Herb had a strict no facial hair policy. During Olympic training he really wanted Ken Morrow out of Bowling Green (who would later play on four straight Stanley Cup winning NY Islander teams). Well, Morrow had a full beard: “Other guys started growing a beard because he had one. I posted a rule that said if you had a beard when you showed up, you could keep it. Otherwise, no! I never had curfews. You know why? Because the best player always gets caught!”

On what the gold medal meant to him: “That it was a TEAM accomplishment. That was voted the top sports accomplishment of the century and won all the sports awards. That was what I was trying to build the whole time, that a team could accomplish such a big thing. What was most gratifying was that the top sports moment of the century was a group, not an individual like Michael Jordan.”

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, October 13th, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

There will be times when your programs will be young with many freshmen. The natural tendency is to downplay expectations when you are a young team, but Herb Brooks sure didn’t take that approach. As head coach of the 1980 Miracle on Ice hockey team, he specifically recruited very young players to try out and to make up his 20 man roster. These kids would stun the Soviets 4-3 in Lake Placid, New York, and then win the gold.

The average age was 21 and it was the youngest team in U.S. Olympic hockey history. He had only one player from the 1976 team and that was Buzz Schneider. Buzz and Mike Eruzione were 25 and everyone else was around 20. Herb wanted young players with a bucketful of working class gumption and flying skates.

He told them to ‘use their youth’. His strategy was to build through blistering speed. During their rigorous seven month training he constantly said ‘legs feed the wolf, boys. Legs feed the wolf!’ He told them that being the youngest team of the 12 in the Olympics was not a negative but a positive.

Sure enough, when they met the dynasty Soviet team on Feb. 22, 1980, their youthfulness was the reason they won the game. While the Soviets had three of the six greatest players of all time on that roster, several of their players were into their 30s. In the final minutes of the third period with Team USA up 4-3 the Soviet coach panicked and kept his veterans on the ice thinking they would surely do something! Herb had his team doctor time shifts the whole night, keeping his boys to forty seconds on ice and  then off. The Soviets were known for wearing down teams with their incredible conditioning drills, but in the third period it was them that wore down. One Soviet player looked over at Doc Nagobads and asked how the U.S. players could keep going and going. Doc, who knew Russian, simply said it was “the fountain of youth.”

If you find yourself in a recruiting cycle where you have to bring in a lot of freshmen, use it as a positive like Herb Brooks did in 1980. He also changed the Team USA style of play from a conservative approach to a more high flying and more creative style of play on the ice. The youngsters ate that up, and played with great spirit on the ice. One Soviet player said the US players had a spirit that you could almost touch.

When they had upset the Soviets the players sat in stunned silence in the locker room before breaking into God Bless America over and over. It took them awhile to realize the magnitude of what they had accomplished (Sports Illustrated would name it the greatest U.S. sports moment of the century). One of the positives about having really young kids on your roster is sometimes they don’t realize they shouldn’t be able to beat a team like the Soviets. Older players sometimes over analyze and ask why. Young kids sometimes say ‘why not?’

Herb Brooks was a genius in how he formed that team and led them through their journey to sports history. In my teambuilding sessions I share what he did and how you can apply it to your program.

Featured Article: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, October 6th, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

Mike Eruzione made the biggest shot, goal, touchdown, or basket in American sports history. His goal with ten minutes to go in the 1980 Olympics put Team USA up 4-3 over the Soviety dynasty team. That would be the final score. The goal and the win literally brought America together again when the country was at an all time low in self esteem. More American flags flew after what they did than at any time since the end of World War II.

Mike Eruzione had only one division one offer six years earlier when he was a high school senior in Winthrop, Massachusetts.

It is that age old issue in recruiting of college coaches often missing the mark when getting so caught up in factors like speed, quickness, 40 times, combine times, and so forth. In the book ‘Going for the Gold’ by Tim Wendel the author writes that Boston College thought he was too poor a skater and New Hampshire said he was too small. What they missed is that he had scored three goals in a minute in the high school state championship game, was an incredible leader, and has a last name (Eruzione) that means volcano in Italian. He also had a knack for scoring when goals were needed most. In his book ‘The Boys of Winter,’ author Wayne Coffey writes that “he knew when to erupt. His breakaway goal helped launch the 7-3 rout of the Czechs in the second game of the Olympics and two days later he knocked in an unassisted goal to awaken the team from its lethargic start against Norway.”

Eruzione did not get a division one offer until after his senior year. Jack Parker had taken over as the new head coach at Boston University. He had seen Eruzione a few years earlier and wasn’t impressed with his physical size, but when reffing a summer league game after Eruzione’s senior year, noticed he was four inches taller and forty pounds stronger. When he asked him where he was going, Eruzione said Merrimack, a D2. Parker offered him a partial scholarship to go to Boston University.

Eruzione would become the school’s all time leading scorer with 203 points and be named the Defensive Player of the Year a whopping FOUR times.

His leadership skills were so strong that without him as captain of the 1980 US Olympic hockey team, it’s doubtful they beat the Soviets and win gold. The twenty players on that team were all stars and almost all had been captains before, but they respected Eurozione a great deal. Even the little things like going to him to ask what they should get their girl friends for Christmas.

Three days before the 1980 Games, the Soviets routed Team USA 10-3 in an exhibition in Madison Square Garden. It was Eruzione that built them back up during the trip upstate to Lake Placid. Rather than dwelling on the 7-0 early Soviet lead, he focused on how they had played even with them for thirty minutes.

Coaches missed all of his positives in recruiting because they were so caught up in his size and the fact that there were better skaters out there in the recruiting pool. They missed that he had been a fiery three sport athlete who would practice skating on frozen tennis courts and on ice in golf sand traps for hours during the winter, and come into the house where his grandmother would open the oven to help thaw his feet.

They missed his heart and how much he cared. Although he had multiple offers to play in the NHL after the Olympic gold in Lake Placid, he turned them all down. He felt there was no way he could match the incredible effort he gave against the Soviets and in the Olympics, and do that over 80 NHL games a year. Plus, he wanted that to be his final hockey memory.

I was a sports anchor for a quarter of a century before going into peak performance speaking and training. If I had a nickel for how many times I saw college coaches miss out on kids like Eruzione because they were all into size and speed (and those are important!) I would have enough nickels to reach the clouds.

Mike Eruzione’s win championships. They stay loyal to programs. Now pushing 60 he still has an office at Boston University where to this day he still gets mail regularly about the Olympics thirty four years ago.

Yes, you have to have “the horses” to win, but don’t miss out on the Eruzione’s in your sport. They are the ones that not only help you win championships, but transcend your sport and make your program huge within your community, state, region and school.

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, September 29th, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

It is often said that you cannot win without outstanding athletes, but never underestimate the importance of coaching and recruiting.

After Herb Brooks led the 1980 Miracle on Ice hockey team past the Soviets 4-3 and to the gold, the legendary Anatoli Tarasov – one of the founders of the Soviet hockey dynasty – said this: “The line up of the 1980 Olympic champions – not so impressive. A couple of classy defensemen, about five individually strong forwards – and that is all. But the trump card for the U.S. team this time was its coach Herb Brooks.”

In sports history, Tarasov is like John Wooden. When he would speak, all would listen.

Historians have said none of the 20 U.S. players would have made the Soviet roster, yet Herb won with them. In my teambuilding sessions for
college programs, I share in depth how he did it, and one of the things he did was go to the head of the Psychology Dept at the University of Minnesota and have him prepare a 300 question questionaire for the prospective players. None of the questions had anything to do with sports, but more about how they could handle stress and change. Herb wanted players who could deal with pressure and embrace the total shift in playing style he would teach them over seven months. He also wanted young men who could take advantage of opportunities.

In the seven games at Lake Placid, the team was brilliant when it came to seizing opportunities. In game one vs Sweden, they trailed by a goal with a minute to go. A loss and medal hopes were slim and none. Herb pulled goalie Jim Craig with less than a minute to go to get another skater on the ice. With half a minute to go Bill Baker, now an oral surgeon, scored.

In the historic game vs the Soviets, Team USA was out shot 39-16 but took advantage of opportunities. With :05 to go in the first period Mark Johnson saw the Soviet defenders and goalie Vladisav Tretiak relax a bit anticipating the end of the period. Johnson soared at the puck like a bullet. Why? Because in the pre game speech Herb had told them they were born to be hockey players and meant to be there that night. Mark believed that it had been written in a book centuries ago that he was meant to be there, so the fired at the puck and scored with :01 to go. The goal so rattled the Soviet coach that he pulled Tretiak – one of, if not the greatest goalies ever – for the rest of the game.

Herb recruited and molded not the best college and amateur players in the nation, but the right players. The nation’s leading college scorer was not on his team. Herb wanted a team of players with a bucketfull of working class gumption and flying skates. Like many of you today, he knew the value of speed.

While it is important to give great respect to players and you can’t win without great and special ones, Tarasov makes it clear that the coaching, mind games, and drive of Herb Brooks was the main reason they won that year.

One resource I suggest for you is the book America’s Coch by Ross Bernstein. It is filled with insights on how Herb did it, and also includes transcripts from many of his motivational talks. There is more info at bernsteinbooks.com

In my on site college team building seminars, I share step by step how that team made history and earned the honor of the greatest U.S. sports accomplishment of the 20th century.

hockey herb book

 Charlie can be reached at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com(574) 807 2279 or at his site stokethefirewithin.com

 

 

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Mircale On IceMonday, September 22nd, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

We lost the first of the 20 heroes that were on the 1980 Miracle on Ice hockey team.

Bob Suter died earlier this month of a heart attack at age 57. He was doing what he loved best as he was coaching youth hockey at the facility he owned in his native Madison, Wisconsin.

In putting together that 1980 team that would stun the Soviets 4-3 in Lake Placid, Herb was looking for tough guys like Suter. Mike Eruzion nicknamed him Bam Bam, from the character from the Flintstones. He said Suter was always ‘bamming’ into someone. Other teammates called him Woody because he was like a wood duck, always bouncing back up.

As you recruit players, people like Bob Suter are who you want to win championships. Three months before the Games in Lake Placid, Suter broke his ankle. While he wasn’t at full speed, Herb kept him on his team because of his fire within and his toughness. When a Czech player cheap shotted Team USA’s top offensive player Mark Johnson in the second game of the Olympics, Brooks sent Bam Bam out to “deal with” the Czech player. As Brooks built teams, everyone had a role, and part of Suter’s role was to take care of such matters. It was the same with Mark Wells, who was the 20th and last man to make that roster. With the score tied with the Soviets 3-3 with ten minutes left on that fateful night of February 22nd, 1980, Brooks sent Wells out to agitage Soviet star Valeri Kharmalouv.

In recruiting, you are obviously focused on building a team and program that wins games and championships. However we can never lose sight of what’s really important is to recruit and develop young men and women that turn into people like Bob Suter. He was a standout at the University of Wisconsin, leading them to a National Championship. He was on the 1980 Olympic gold medal team, but what many will remember him most for is the impact on youth hockey in Wisconsin. Eurozione told the media recently that with respect to all his gold medal teammates, no one did more for youth hockey than Suter. His hockey programs at his facility impacted thousands, and sent several to the NHL.

They could not find a Lutheran Church big enough to hold his funeral. The waiting time to pay respects the day before was over four hours.

Suter never played NHL although he could have gone to that level. He wanted to get on to other things in his life like his sporting goods story and his hockey building. His son Ryan, a star for the Minnesota Wild, has never seen the 1980 game because decades ago his Dad lent it to someone and it never returned. Suter didn’t mind, as he had moved forward.

I will continue to write about the greatest sports moment and team of the 20th century, and I hope these insights help you not only in recruiting but in coaching. Herb Brooks was a genius. His players were very special. What they did should never be forgotten, and that is the purpose of my team building seminar I deliver on site to college athletics programs.

Charlie can be reached at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com(574) 807 2279 or at his site stokethefirewithin.com

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, September 15th, 2014

Charlie1015by Charlie Adam, StokeTheFireWithin.com

College coaches at every level face obstacles in recruiting and in building and sustaining programs.

Herb Brooks faced remarkable challenges in building the 20 man roster that would win Olympic Gold in February of 1980.

First of all, some elite college players didn’t even try out because why would they want a shot at bronze at best and endure getting annihilated by the Soviet team that was the best team in hockey history. The Soviet team had beat the NHL All Stars 6-0 the year before and used their back up
goalie the whole game.

Just like you have some recruits that won’t give you the time of day, Herb focused on the ones he could get. Chances are those others wouldn’t have had the mental toughness he was looking for anyways. Remember, all along Herb wasn’t looking for the best players. He was looking for the right players. Jim Craig, the goalie who played every second, was rated by some pro prospects as maybe the 5th best goalie in college yet it would be Craig that would stop 36 of 39 Soviet shots that historic night of Feb. 22nd, 1980.

In September of 1979 Herb faced the challenge of NHL player agents trying to talk some of his 26 players (he would whittle it to 20) into giving up that Olympic pipe dream and sign pro. To counter it, Herb scheduled a month of exhibition games in Europe in September. He knew NHL Camps would be starting then. His European tour served several purposes. It kept the players away from the agents and also allowed them to play on international sized ice rinks.

While he was okay with some college stars not trying out Herb knew there were certain players he had to have or it didn’t matter how well he coached. It’s just like there are certain recruits you really need to build a program. One of the players was 6’4″ defenseman Ken Morrow of Bowling Green University. Herb REALLY wanted him. The challenge was Herb had a strict no facial hair while coaching at the University of Minnesota and with the Olympics. Morrow had a big ol’ beard. Herb was worried that if he asked Morrow to shave it, Morrow might go pro). Herb adjusted. He adjusted his policy to ‘existing facial hair is fine – no new facial hair.’

As Herb was molding the team over the 7 month training process leading to Lake Placid, he would have the team play a whopping 61 exhibition games. You have budget challenges. So did Herb. One of the reasons he played all those games was to finance this whole thing. They never had fancy facilities or transportation along the way, but sometimes you develop better as a team with salt of the earth equipment. They were playing exhibition games in northern Minnesota in snow storm season. They were in this small plane leaving one city when the plane lifted up, clipped a tree, and had to land. The plane could not go backwards, so the whole team got out and pushed it all the way back to the start of the runway. They were saying, “Can you believe this?” as they laughed. Things like that helped blur the borders of the Minnesota vs Boston area player rivalry that had been going on.

In my team building workshop for college coaches and players, I share many more of the challenges and solutions that Herb faced and solved over that historic run in 1979 and 1980. Many feel it was the greatest coaching job in American sports history. Herb faced challenges, just like you. He still was able to recruit and build the team that would achieve the greatest sports moment of the century.

He always said, “Don’t be common. The common person goes nowhere. Be uncommon.” Don’t be common with your recruiting. Be uncommon. Utilize the powerful methods Dan Tudor and his team have developed, and you could very well build a team that goes down in history like the 1980 US Olympic hockey team.

I want to close this week by dedicating this article to the memory of Bob Suter. We lost our first member of the 20 man team this week. Bob, a defenseman on that team, died this past week of a heart attack at age 57. He was working at the rink he owned in Wisconsin. Bob had helped so many kids grow as hockey players and as people over the years. He taught at the rink, coached, cleaned the bathrooms, ran the front desk, and on and on. He had a life motto of “It’s all about the kids.” Rest in peace, Bob.

Charlie can be reached at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com(574) 807 2279 or at his site stokethefirewithin.com

 

Featured Series: The ‘Miracle’ Behind Herb Brooks’s Miracle On IceMonday, September 8th, 2014

by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com

Before becoming the 1980 US Olympic hockey coach, Herb Brooks was head hockey coach at the University of Minnesota from 1972-79. They were last place in the Conference when he took over and winners of 3 NCAA championships in the seven years.

Brooks was passionate about recruiting. He and his staff worked hard on it and it paid off. Herb identified Neal Broten as a primary recruit as Neal was going into high school. Herb would later say Neal was the best 9th grade hockey player he had ever seen. For three years Herb had his assistant go to northern Minnesota every week to watch Neal play. Three straight years.

It paid off as Neal signed a scholarship with Minnesota. In his freshman year he broke the Gophers’ assist record and scored the winning goal in the 1979 NCAA championship. Herb would later say that Neal was the best player he ever coached at Minnesota.

Neal would later win the inaugural Hobey Baker Award as the best player in the country. After winning he said that it should’ve gone to his brother Aaron, who had a better season. Aaron was also a remarkable player for the Gophers.

Herb created a dynasty at Minnesota and then made the run to the Gold at the 1980 Games by recruiting top talent and recruiting for values. Values like the humility Neal Broten had when he honestly said his brother should have won the player of the year award. Neal was incredibly talented but so well liked by his teammates because he was always looking to set them up for scores and never got the big head.

Neal is the only hockey player ever to win a NCAA title, Olympic gold medal, Hobey Baker Award, and Stanley Cup. Players of talent and character like that are the ones you identify early and recruit hard, because they are the program changers. The Minnesota staff stayed on him hard for three years as Herb was ahead of his time. Even back in the ’70’s he would identify talent early and take dead aim on it.

Charlie can be reached at charlie@stokethefirewithin.com(574) 807 2279 or at his site stokethefirewithin.com

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