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Herb Brooks is gone, but not forgotten

by Mike G. Morreale
WOODRIDGE, Ill. -- It's pretty rare to attend any USA Hockey event nowadays without the name Herb Brooks popping up at some point.

That's because USA Hockey and Herb Brooks are synonymous, and it's why the entire hockey community mourned the death of the legendary coach in a car accident on Aug. 11, 2003. Brooks’ valuable lessons of life and hockey -- "Herbisms" -- will forever remain a part of the American sports culture.

"I think you can really define it pretty simply -- Herb Brooks was the architect of the single most significant moment in the history of American hockey," USA Hockey Executive Director Dave Ogrean told "His role with that team was clearly one of larger-than-life dominance since we were dealing with players younger than we have now. Herb was the leader, the one who molded them, pushed them and challenged them, and a guy who always insisted on doing things his way. He was never a compromiser, but, at the end of the day, he put his signature on what is the pinnacle moment for hockey in the United States."

Brooks followed up the 1980 Olympic "Miracle on Ice" in Lake Placid with a silver medal at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.

"In the intervening years between 1980 and 2002, Herb spent most of that time in the NHL," Ogrean said. "He had coached, scouted and gotten more experience in Europe. He absorbed a lot of knowledge of international and NHL hockey, so when the NHL guys entered the Olympic Games, it was a logical fit to bring him back in 2002. And we almost did it again, but Canada was just better that day (in the gold medal game)."

Three of the 34 players invited to the 2009 United States Olympic Men's Orientation Camp had the opportunity to play for Brooks in the '02 Games -- forwards Mike Modano and Chris Drury and defenseman Brian Rafalski.

Each player took some time to provide with some of their fondest memories of Brooks during that three-week stretch in 2002.

Mike Modano -- "Just having Herb there in Salt Lake with us and returning to the Olympics was so exciting. We really wanted to do it for Herb and get to the gold medal game and win one more for him. He wasn't really an X's and O's guy because he wouldn't elaborate on systems. He just went out there and asked us to skate hard and work hard and have fun because that's when good things happen. He was a real rah-rah guy and he had some great speeches leading up to some games, some very similar to the things he said in 1980 for Team USA and also when he coached Minnesota and then in New York."

Chris Drury
-- "It was a big thrill. We all watched him growing up and to get to see how he handled our team and the veterans and how close we were to winning gold but just fell short was certainly something I'll never forget. He was really pretty casual. I think he knew the talent he had, especially with the older guys in the group that had won World Cup (in 1996). By not pressing too hard, I think he figured he would get the most out of us. He just seemed to have a real good relationship with our core group of guys."

Brian Rafalski -- "It was a great experience and my first Olympics so it's something I'll always remember. We were playing on home soil and skated for a legendary coach. It was great to hear the stories he shared and we wound up doing pretty well -- a silver is good. I'll never forget that summer camp he held in Colorado Springs when he told me "The legs feed the wolf." He wanted you to do this extra weight program after regular workouts and you're like, "Oh man, Herb, I don't know, I'm really tired." I mean, how much work do you need to do? But he certainly got the best out of us, and I feel honored to have played for him."

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