Family, former players honor Brooks’ hockey legacy

Lou Raguse

During the first intermission of Minnesota’s men’s hockey game Saturday against Minnesota-Duluth, all 10,159 fans stood and cheered. On the Mariucci ice, more than 50 former hockey players pointed their sticks to the sky to salute their former teammate and coach.

The tribute was for coaching legend Herb Brooks, who died in a car accident Aug. 11.

At the ceremony, Brooks’ son Dan thanked the players for their continuing support of his family and also commented on his father’s goals.

“All he wanted to do is play hockey like the great John Mayasich, coach like John Mariucci and spend time with his grandkids,” Brooks said. “You can safely say his dreams were realized.”

As a player, Herb Brooks was a Minnesota letter winner from 1957-59 and Olympian in 1964 and 1968.

But Brooks is best known as a coach, who in 1980 led the United States to victory over the heavily favored Soviet Union in the Olympic semifinals. The team became known as the “miracle on ice,” as it went on to win the gold medal.

The team consisted of many Gophers, whom Brooks coached to national championships in 1974, 1976 and 1979. During that time, Brooks earned his reputation as one of the great innovators of the sport.

“During the ’70s, if you look back at the pro game, it was very barbaric, dump and chase, rough and tough,” Dan Brooks said. “My dad was enthralled in what was taking place in Eastern Europe at the time, with the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia playing very free-flowing, open, with a big emphasis on speed. So he brought that to his teams in ’80 and also in New York.”

At Saturday’s ceremony, former player Bill Butters, eulogizer at Brooks’ funeral, spoke on lessons he learned from his former coach.

“He taught each one of us how to have character, how to play with perseverance, how be disciplined and how to have a passion for the game we all love,” Butters said. “And we all took it on the ice, but it didn’t end there. Herbie taught us how to be men of character, and I want to thank him for that and thank his family for that.”

Many of Brooks’ former players describe him as a father figure in their lives. Brooks’ son Dan said he was a father and coaching figure to him.

“He was always doing the things that motivate you,” Brooks said. “What made him such a great coach and such a great father is that he was a great reverse psychologist. He knew the buttons to push, he knew how to get that knife and turn it the right way to motivate you. He was the master.”

At the ceremony, Minnesota Athletics Director Joel Maturi took the microphone last.

“It is an honor to represent you, the greatest hockey fans in the world, to honor Herb Brooks as a Gopher,” Maturi said.

Maturi announced that next year the Gophers will start a scholarship in Brooks’ name. He also unveiled a mural depicting Brooks as a player and coach.

On the ice, a logo with Brooks’ initials was displayed behind each net, and each Minnesota player wore a patch with the same logo. The two salutes will be displayed for the remainder of this season.

Brooks was honored at a ceremony at the Xcel Energy Center on Oct. 9, where later this season the city will display a statue of Brooks’ likeness. The New York Rangers, whom Brooks coached for four years, also recognized him.

“I can’t believe this national outpouring is still taking place,” Dan Brooks said. “He’s just a guy from the east side of St. Paul. But he touched a lot of people.”