Column: America loses hockey legend
Published 12:48 pm Tuesday, August 12, 2003
America lost a true coaching legend Monday afternoon when former Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks was killed in a traffic accident in Minnesota.
How ironic that on a day I was watching a documentary on the 1980 Olympic team's winning the gold medal, Brooks was killed as he was driving home from playing in a Hockey Hall of Fame celebrity golf tournament near the Twin Cities.
The news was quite frankly stunning late last night as I was channel surfing.
I can remember everything about the 1980 hockey team and Brooks. I had seen this documentary before, but I still stopped and watched the remaining minutes after finding out it was on.
Brooks was almost a mythical figure in the hockey world. He was the last player cut from the 1960 squad which also stunned the world and won the gold medal.
He returned 20 years later with a team of college players and perhaps performed one of the greatest feats ever imagined.
The United States winning the 1980 gold medal in hockey would be a little bit like Michigan winning the World Series against the Yankees.
Nobody beat the Russians in hockey back then. Russia was a professional hockey team hiding behind the clock of amateur athletics.
In fact, in the months leading up to the Olympics, the Russians had demolished the United States in an exhibition game.
Still, Brooks was able to mold not only a wide variety of talents, but diverse backgrounds into one very special hockey team which captured America's heart.
In the midst of the turmoil of 1980, including hostages being held in Iran, the United States hockey team brought together a nation and gave it a reason to be proud.
Brooks returned to coach the Olympic team in the 2000 games and the United States brought home the silver medal.
He coached the game at all levels. Brooks' Minnesota Gopher teams won three national championships.
He also was a successful coach in the National Hockey League, although he never won a Stanley Cup.
He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990, a fitting tribute to a man who made coaching hockey his life.
Brooks leaves behind a wife, Patti, and two grown children.
He will be sorely missed by each and every one of us who love the game of hockey.