by Charlie Adams, StokeTheFireWithin.com
For coaches out there reading this today, Tuesday, this is the actual 35th anniversary date of the ending of the Miracle on Ice. On Febuary 24th, 1980 coach Herb Brook’s USA team rallied to beat Finland 4-2.
“The impossible dream comes true,” said ABC’s Al Michaels, two days after his famous “Do you believe in miracles?!” call.
The 19 surviving players returned to Lake Placid Saturday night. It was the first time the whole surviving team was back in Lake Placid since 1980. No doubt, one reason they made sure to return was the realization of mortality. Bob Suter became the first player to die back in September when he died of a heart attack at age 57. He was at his rink in Madison, WI where he helped so many kids.
Every coach dreams of assembling a team that reaches the pinnacle like the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. I can’t emphasize enough how important the psychological part of it is. Shortly after Brooks died in a car crash in August of 2003, former Soviet star Slava Fetisov wrote a wonderful tribute to him that the New York Times read. Fetisov wrote, “he was one of the first to prove that a modern coach is first of all a wonderful pschologist.”
When Slava speaks, people listen. Wayne Gretzkey felt Slava was one of the two best defenders he ever faced, saying Slava could skate backwards and sideways faster than he could forward. Slava was so good an asteroid was named after him.
Brooks’ degree in psychology and his emphasis of that area enabled him to recruit players at the college and Olympic level that were incredible at coming through at opportune times. He also knew exactly how to push the different buttons.
Psychology and motivation are so important in building a team and championships. Here is Herb Brooks on it:
“Motivation is the energy that makes everything work. It is clearly the single most critical part of performance.”
Herb Brooks had different motivational talks for every game in Lake Placid. They ranged from confronting Rob McLanahan after the first period of the sluggish Sweden game to where they had a near fight, to his compassionate ‘you were born to be here’ talk before the Soviet game, when his boys were on edge. Then, trailing Finland 3-2 before the final period in the gold medal game, he merely walked in and said, “You lose this game, you take it to your $@*# grave”. He walked back out, and back in, and said, “To your !@$%! grave.” And left.
Team USA destroyed Finland in the final period of the gold medal game, rallying from 3-2 down to win 4-2. Scoring the winning goal was Rob McLanahan, who was so enraged at herb during that Sweden fiasco that he had to be separated. Today, McLanahan is on the board of directors of the Herb Brooks Foundation, has coached Herb’s grandkids, and will tell anyone no other coach could have done what Herb did back in 1980.
Being a wonderful psychologist and understanding nothing is more important than motivation. That comes from Slava Fetisov and Herb Brooks.
Today is the 35th anniversary of it all. If you would, please take a minute to Like the Herb Brooks Foundation on Facebook, as they do so much wonderful work to help young people.