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Herb Brooks

Herb Brooks American ice hockey player and coach

American ice hockey player and coach
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro American ice hockey player and coach
Was Sports coach Ice hockey coach Athlete Ice hockey player
From United States of America
Type Sports
Gender male
Birth 5 August 1937, Saint Paul, USA
Death 11 August 2003, Forest Lake, USA (aged 66 years)
Star sign LeoLeo
Siblings: David Brooks
Height: 178 cm
Weight: 75 kg
The details

Herbert Paul Brooks Jr. (August 5, 1937 – August 11, 2003) was an American ice hockey player and coach. His most notable achievement came in 1980 as head coach of the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic hockey team at Lake Placid. At the Games, Brooks' American team upset the heavily-favored Soviet team in a match that came to be known as the "Miracle on Ice."

Brooks would go on to coach multiple National Hockey League (NHL) teams, as well as the French team at the 1998 Winter Olympics. He ultimately returned to coach the U.S. men's team to a silver medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Brooks was killed in a 2003 car accident. At the time of his death, he was the director of player personnel for the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins.


Early years

Brooks was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota to Pauline and Herbert Brooks Sr. He attended Johnson High School, where his team won the 1955 state hockey championship.

Brooks continued his hockey career with the University of Minnesota Gophers from 1955 to 1959. He was a member of the 1960 Olympic team, only to become the last cut the week before the Games started. Three weeks later, Brooks sat at home with his father and watched the team he almost made win gold in Squaw Valley. Afterwards, Brooks "went up to the coach Jack Riley and said, 'Well, you must have made the right decision—you won'". This humbling moment served as further motivation for Brooks, an already self-driven person.

From 1960 to 1970, Brooks set a record by playing on a total of eight U.S. National and Olympic teams, including the 1964 and 1968 Olympic teams.

Coaching career

After retiring as a player, Brooks became a coach, notably leading his alma mater, the Minnesota Golden Gophers, to three NCAA championship titles in 1974, 1976, and 1979. Brooks finished his collegiate coaching with a record of 175 wins, 101 losses, and 20 ties.

Soon after Minnesota won its third college championship, he was hired to coach the 1980 Olympic team. Hand-picking his team, he named several of his Minnesota players to the team, as well as several from their rivals, Boston University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. To compete with the Soviet Union team specifically, Brooks developed a hybrid of the rugged, physical North American style and the faster European style, which emphasized creativity and teamwork. He also stressed peak conditioning, believing that one of the reasons the Soviet team had dominated international competition was that many of their opponents were exhausted by the third period.

After his Olympic gold medal win, Brooks moved to Switzerland for a year to coach HC Davos in the National League A. From 1981 to 1985, he coached in the National Hockey League for the New York Rangers, where he became the first American-born coach in Rangers' team history to win 100 games. After a brief stop at then-NCAA Division III St. Cloud State University, he returned to the NHL to coach the Minnesota North Stars (from 1987 to 1988), New Jersey Devils (1992–93), and Pittsburgh Penguins (1999–2000). He was a long-time scout for the Penguins from the mid-1990s, and held the role of Director of Player Personnel from 2002 to the day of his death. His hiring by the North Stars in 1987 would be the last time a college coach was selected to coach an NHL team until North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol was tapped to coach the Philadelphia Flyers in May 2015.

Brooks also coached two more Olympic team teams: Team France at the 1998 in Nagano, and the U.S. hockey team again at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. The 2002 team defeated the Russians in the semi-finals en route to a silver, losing in the gold medal game to Canada. The U.S. win over Russia came exactly 22 years to the day after the famous 'Miracle on Ice' game.

Brooks was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990, and the International Hockey Hall of Fame in 1999. He was honored posthumously with the Wayne Gretzky International Award in 2004, and inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Death and legacy

On the afternoon of August 11, 2003, Brooks died in a single-car accident on Interstate 35 near Forest Lake, Minnesota. It is believed that he fell asleep behind the wheel before the accident, and neither drugs nor alcohol were responsible. Brooks was not wearing his seat belt at the time of the crash, and according to the Minnesota State Patrol it is likely he would have survived the crash if he had been.

In 2004, Disney released a film about the 1980 Olympic team called Miracle featuring Kurt Russell playing the part of Brooks. (Karl Malden had previously played Brooks in a 1981 television film called Miracle on Ice). Brooks served as a consultant during principal photography, which was completed shortly before his death. At the end of the movie there is a dedication to Brooks. It states, "He never saw it. He lived it."

On the 25th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice, the Olympic ice arena in Lake Placid, New York, where the United States won the gold medal, was renamed Herb Brooks Arena. A statue of Brooks depicting his reaction to the victory in the 'Miracle' game was erected at the entrance to the RiverCentre in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in 2003.

The Herb Brooks Award is awarded at the conclusion of the Minnesota State High School League's state hockey tournament to "the most qualified hockey player in the state tournament who strongly represents the values, characteristics, and traits that defined Herb Brooks."

The Herb Brooks Training Center is located at Blaine, Minnesota.

The National Hockey Center at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota was renamed for Brooks in April 2013.

In 2006, Brooks was posthumously inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in the Builders' category. The inscription reads: "A man of passion and dedication, Herb Brooks inspired a generation of Americans to pursue any and all dreams."

Personal life

Brooks was married to his wife Patti since 1965 and they had two children, Danny and Kelly.


Brooks' original expressions were known by his players as "Brooksisms." According to Olympians John Harrington, Dave Silk, and Mike Eruzione, these are a few.

  • "You're playing worse and worse every day and right now you're playing like it's next month."
  • "You can't be common, the common man goes nowhere. You have to be uncommon."
  • "Boys, I'm asking you to go to the well again."
  • "You look like you have a five pound fart on your head."
  • "You guys are getting bent over and they're not using Vaseline."
  • "You look like a monkey tryin' to hump a football!"
  • "You're looking for players whose name on the front of the sweater is more important than the one on the back. I look for these players to play hard, to play smart and to represent their country."
  • "Great moments are born from great opportunity."
  • "You know, Willy Wonka said it best: we are the music makers and we are the dreamers of dreams."
  • "This team isn't talented enough to win on talent alone."
  • "If you lose this game you'll take it to your grave ... your fucking grave."
  • "You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours."
  • "Write your own book instead of reading someone else's book about success."
  • "Boys, in the front of the net it's a bloody nose alley."
  • "Don't dump the puck in. That went out with short pants."
  • "Throw the puck back and weave, weave, weave. But don't just weave for the sake of weaving."
  • "Let's be idealistic but let's also be practical."
  • "You guys don't want to work during the game?"
  • "The legs feed the wolf."
  • "We walked up to the tiger, looked him straight in his eye and spat in it."
  • "Tonight."
  • "Again."

Head coaching record


Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Minnesota Golden Gophers (WCHA / Big Ten)
1972–73 Minnesota 15–16–3 12–13–3 / 5–4–3 6th / 3rd WCHA First Round
1973–74 Minnesota 22–11–6 14–9–5 / 5–4–3 2nd / t-1st NCAA National Champion
1974–75 Minnesota 31–10–1 24–8–0 / 8–4–0 1st / 1st NCAA Runner-Up
1975–76 Minnesota 28–14–2 18–13–1 / 4–8–0 3rd / 3rd NCAA National Champion
1976–77 Minnesota 17–21–3 13–16–3 / 5–7–0 7th / 3rd WCHA Semifinals
1977–78 Minnesota 22–14–2 18–13–1 / 6–6–0 4th / 3rd WCHA First Round
1978–79 Minnesota 32–11–1 20–11–1 / 10–2–0 2nd / 1st NCAA National Champion
Minnesota: 167–97–18 119–83–14 / 43–35–6
St. Cloud State Huskies (NCHA)
1986–87 St. Cloud State 25–10–1 13–6–1 t-1st NCAA Third Place Game (Win)
St. Cloud State: 25–10–1 13–6–1
Total: 192–107–19



Note: GC = Games coached, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, Pts = Points, Pct = Winning percentage

Season Team League GC W L T Pts Standings Pct Results
1981–82 New York Rangers NHL 80 39 27 14 92 2nd in Patrick 0.575 Lost Second Round
1982–83 New York Rangers NHL 80 35 35 10 80 4th in Patrick 0.500 Lost Second Round
1983–84 New York Rangers NHL 80 42 29 9 93 4th in Patrick 0.581 Lost First Round
1984–85 New York Rangers NHL 45 15 22 8 38 5th in Patrick 0.422 (fired)
1987–88 Minnesota North Stars NHL 80 19 48 13 51 5th in Norris 0.319 (missed playoffs)
1992–93 New Jersey Devils NHL 84 40 37 7 87 4th in Patrick 0.518 Lost First Round
1999–2000 Pittsburgh Penguins NHL 58 29 24 5 63 3rd in Atlantic 0.543 Lost Second Round
NHL career totals 507 219 222 66 504 0.497 5 playoff appearances

Other leagues

Note: GC = Games coached, W = Wins, L = Losses, T = Ties, OL = Overtime loss, Pts = Points, Pct = Winning percentage

Season Team League GC W L T OL Pts Pct
1980 USA Olympic Men's Team IIHF Gold Medal
1980–81 HC Davos Swiss-A 28 11 16 1 23 0.411
1991–92 Utica Devils AHL 80 34 40 6 74 0.463
1998 France Olympic Men's Team IIHF 11th-place finish
2002 USA Olympic Men's Team IIHF Silver Medal
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