The memories of Lake Placid remain very fresh in the mind and heart of Patti Brooks, the widow of legendary Team USA coach Herb Brooks.
Monday, Feb. 22, marked the 30th anniversary of the biggest upset in hockey history when the United States pulled off the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" with an improbable 4-3 victory over the Soviet Union.
"Sometimes it feels just like yesterday because I remember so many details about Lake Placid," Patti Brooks told NHL.com. "Then, there are times it feels like 100 years ago, especially when I watch the Opening Ceremonies because Lake Placid was a much simpler time; there wasn't an elaborate Opening Ceremonies back then."
Brooks recalls having her doubts after the Soviets had drubbed her husband's team, 10-3, in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden just three days before the start of the '80 Games.
"These were college boys playing the greatest hockey team in the world," she said. "It really was David and Goliath. But I couldn't name just one thing what it was about Herbie that made him such a successful coach. He was extremely intelligent, motivated. I know they are a lot of words but … loyalty, integrity and honesty. He had a great passion for the sport. He also had a degree in psychology that played a big part in it all."
"It was something he always wanted. He was the last player cut from the 1960 team (that won gold in Squaw Valley, Calif.) so this was important to him. After the win, I remember him telling the players that they had a curfew. Everyone was so excited after beating the Soviets, but there was another game (against Finland). He went back to the Olympic Village and I took the kids up the mountain to the place we were staying." -- Patti Brooks
Patti, who resides in St. Paul, Minn., doesn't even recall speaking to Herb the day his team would face the Soviets in the opening game of the medal round at Olympic Center -- now known appropriately enough as Herb Brooks Arena.
"In those days, no one had cell phones," Brooks said. "He stayed in the Olympic Village with the team and we were about 15 minutes away at Whiteface Mountain. After every game, I would wait outside the arena to see him. On Valentine's Day that year, we waited in the cold (following a 7-3 victory over Czechoslovakia) for what seemed like an hour so our daughter, Kelly, could give her father a card. But, unbelievably, we had to wait for a player chosen to give a urine specimen.
"I remember going to dinner just once and Herbie was juggling lines on the napkin -- mind not on dinner," she continued. "When we were together, we never really talked about the game. Most likely, it was my rather detached interest in hockey. I was like an oasis for him. He was able to talk about kids, the dog and home."
When the countdown was on in the waning seconds of the ultimate triumph over the Soviets before a rowdy crowd at Olympic Center, Patti could only reflect on her husband's monumental achievement.
"It made me happy because it was a goal of Herbie's," she said. "It was something he always wanted. He was the last player cut from the 1960 team (that won gold in Squaw Valley, Calif.) so this was important to him. After the win, I remember him telling the players that they had a curfew. Everyone was so excited after beating the Soviets, but there was another game (against Finland). He went back to the Olympic Village and I took the kids up the mountain to the place we were staying."
As great a coach as Brooks' was, Patti said his demeanor away from the rink was equally special.
"He kept us all on our toes," she said. "He loved spending time with his grandchildren. The thing that bothers me most about his death (in a car accident on Aug. 11, 2003) is that he won't see his grandchildren grow up. He was gone a great deal during our children's young years and he felt he had a chance to spend quality time with the grandkids. He would have loved seeing his 8-year-old twin grandsons playing hockey. We have five grandchildren.
"Usually coaches don't get gold medals, so I'm told," Patti Brooks said. "But Herb was given one that year."
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