Brooks, Herb(ert) P.
BROOKS, Herb(ert) P.
(b. 5 August 1937 in Saint Paul, Minnesota), member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame and the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame who coached the U.S. hockey team to a gold-medal victory in the 1980 Olympics.
Brooks played hockey for Johnson High School in Saint Paul from 1952 to 1955. He attended the University of Minnesota from 1955 to 1959 and earned three varsity letters playing for the University of Minnesota's hockey team. A fine skater, he played both forward and defense.
After graduating from college in 1959, Brooks tried but failed to win a place on the 1960 U.S. Olympic men's ice hockey team. Intent on staying involved in the game, he played on the U.S. National team in 1961 and 1962. In 1964 he won a spot on the U.S. Olympic team and competed in the Games held that year in Innsbruck, Austria. Brooks rejoined the U.S. National team for the 1965 and 1967 seasons. The following year he was the playing captain of the U.S. hockey team that competed in the 1968 Olympic Games in Grenoble, France. In 1970 Brooks competed on the U.S. National hockey team.
Returning to the University of Minnesota in 1972, Brooks began a seven-season stint as head coach of the school's hockey team and quickly established himself as one of the sport's most innovative coaches. He merged elements of European-style hockey and Canadian-American techniques to develop his own distinctive approach to the game. A strict disciplinarian, he also showed exceptional talent as a motivator.
Under him the Golden Gophers won the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) ice hockey championship in 1974, the only time that a team consisting entirely of American-born players has won the NCAA title in this sport. Brooks again led Minnesota to national titles in 1976 and 1979. Overall, he posted a coaching record of 175 wins, 100 losses, and 20 ties at the University of Minnesota. In 1979 Brooks coached the U.S. National team in the World Ice Hockey championships, held that year in Moscow.
In 1980 Brooks achieved his greatest distinction, coaching the U.S. hockey team to its celebrated "Miracle on Ice" triumph at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. "You're meant to be here," Brooks told his team at the start of the tournament. "This moment is yours." In its first match, Team USA tied Sweden, 2–2, by scoring a goal in the final 27 seconds of the contest. Then the U.S. team beat Czechoslovakia, 7–3; Norway, 5–1; Romania, 7–2; and West Germany, 4–2, to reach the medal round.
These unexpected victories aroused enormous interest and excitement in the American public. Then, Brooks's young skaters upset the mighty USSR team, 4–3, in a tense, thrilling match. As the game's final seconds ticked away, sportscaster Al Michaels shouted into his microphone, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"
Overnight, Brooks and his players became national heroes. They completed their storybook saga by defeating Finland, 4–2, to win the gold medal. Sports Illustrated named Brooks Sportsman of the Year in 1980. Twenty years later, the magazine selected the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team's gold medal— winning performance as the Greatest Sports Moment of the Century. Nearly everyone involved in American hockey, on both the professional and amateur levels, recognizes the Lake Placid victory as a turning point for the sport in the United States. The triumph created legions of new hockey fans and inspired a generation of future hockey stars.
Brooks briefly coached hockey in Switzerland in the 1980–1981 season, then returned to the United States to begin his National Hockey League (NHL) coaching career. As coach of the New York Rangers he guided the team to a respectable 39–27–14 record and a place in the playoffs during the 1981–1982 season. For this achievement the Sporting News named him NHL Coach of the Year. Brooks's Rangers made the playoffs in each of his first four years as their coach. He also achieved 100 victories faster than any other coach in Rangers history.
After leaving the Rangers, Brooks coached the Saint Cloud State College hockey team in the 1986–1987 season. He led this team to third place in the national small-college hockey tournament, whereupon Saint Cloud moved up to Division I status. Brooks himself moved on to a coaching job with the NHL's Minnesota North Stars. In 1987–1988, his one season with the organization, the North Stars won only nineteen games.
Brooks was elected to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990. He returned to the NHL to coach the New Jersey Devils in the 1992–1993 season. He fashioned a 40–37–7 record during that season, then resigned his post because of a dispute with the team's management. Taking over the reins of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins partway through the 1999–2000 season, Brooks directed the team to a 29–23–5 record.
In 1999 Brooks was elected to the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame. In 2001 he received the USA Hockey Distinguished Achievement Award, presented annually to the American hockey professional who has brought the most credit, on and off the ice, to the sport. Brooks, now a scout for the Pittsburgh Penguins, is slated to coach the U.S. hockey team in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Additional information on Brooks may be found in Lord Killanin and John Rodda, eds., The Olympic Games, 1980: Moscow and Lake Placid (1979); Wayne Coffey, 1980 U.S. Hockey Team (1993); and Kevin Allen, "Brooks Deserves to Coach Team USA Again," USA Today (3 Oct. 2000).