“It seems it wasn’t just a sporting event,” he says. “It was almost a piece of American history.”
Herb Brooks, who lost his life in an automobile accident in August 2003 in his home state of Minnesota, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame builders’ category Monday. He was represented by his son, who humbly accepted the glittering ring but declined to wear it out of respect for his dad’s accomplishments.
The Lake Placid legend continues to grow. A collection of U.S. college players upset the favoured Russians and went on to beat Finland in the gold-medal game 26 years ago. It wasn’t always celebrated so grandiously. For the 10-year anniversary, his dad held an informal party.
“It was a backyard barbecue,” Dan Brooks recalled. “We had two kegs of beer and my dad was cooking bratwurst and had some makeshift sign, you know ‘Welcome 1980 Guys.’
“Ten years after that, they made the movie “Miracle” and these guys were ushered around in limousines. I scratched my head, saying this was incredible.”
He said his father predicted that the outcome of the tournament would grow in importance.
“I watched an interview after the Finland game when he talked to (U.S. President) Jimmy Carter,” he recalled. “Jim Lampley was the announcer and my dad said, ‘Mark my words, this is going to go down in history as an incredible event.’
“It was kind of eerie to hear him say that.”
His father would have been thrilled to join his mentor, John Mariucci, in the hockey shrine. Mariucci, who preceded Brooks as a formidable U.S. college coach, was inducted as a builder in 1985.
“I know the first thing my dad would have brought up is he’s here with the legendary John Mariucci,” said Dan Brooks.
He hopes hockey fans will remember his father as a good NHL coach as well as the architect of the “Miracle On Ice” team.
“He had some great years in New York,” he said. “Unfortunately, the Rangers had to go through the New York Islanders.”
It always bothered his father that he never coached an NHL team to a championship.
“I think he excelled the best when he had total control,” said Dan Brooks. “In 1980 he had total control over everything from who played to where they stayed to how they travelled.
“He was very innovative. I think he had a tough time with the pro mentality. That was a challenge for him. Wherever he coached (in the NHL) it seemed there was always one guy he had battles with. He liked the mentality of the amateur player.”
The Hockey Hall of Fame weekend was an eye-opener for the Minnesotan.
“Totally,” he said. “Riding the bus with Yvon Cournoyer, Jean Beliveau, Brian Trottier . . . my God.
“I remember being on a bus with my father and it was just a bunch of guys from the east side of St. Paul.”
The original movie made about the 1980 Olympic team starred Karl Malden as Herb Brooks.
“He was coaching in Switzerland right before he went to New York and I remember the first script they sent him,” said his son. “He sat in a room by himself to go over it and you would hear every once in a while, ‘Oh My God.’
“He took a lot of red pen to that script. It was still an awful piece of work.”
The 2004 “Miracle” film starring Kurt Russell is the epic big-screen account.
The late Bob Johnson, who opposed Brooks in U.S. college coaching ranks and also went on to an NHL coaching career, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992.
“I remember a lot of those battles with Badger Bob back in the day and they were incredible,” said Dan Brooks. “We’d go to Wisconsin and they’d serve beer at the games and these students would just go crazy.
“They’d get under my dad’s skin like you wouldn’t believe. Then Badger Bob would come to Minnesota and it was the same.”
Herb Brooks picked Mark Johnson, Bob Johnson’s son, for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team.
People approach him when they find out who he is and blurt out where they were the night the U.S. team beat the Russians, said Dan Brooks.
“There aren’t many things people can say that of. It still shocks me to this day.”