Saturday, 02 March 2024

Between Smoke and Fire: Learning about Herb Brooks on Mirror Lake

The night was cold and damp and the huge snow flakes were like white doilies floating down. You could hear the crunching of the snow beneath our tired feet as we made our way down the path and onto Mirror Lake. When we arrived it was stepping back in time, 1980. The roar of the crowd was the same as it was on the night of Feb 22, 1980, and between the smoke and the fire, I saw a swarm of people around a man who resembled a businessman. As I approached the crowd I learned that the businessman was Olympic hockey player, #4, Mike Ramsey. Standing next to a makeshift bonfire talking to Ramsey the smoke from the fire floated between us, and between smoke and the fire I learned about Herb Brooks and the team he coached to victory.

At a time when technology dominates every aspect of life, teaching values can be a difficult and risky business. Most of the college seniors I know are pretty fixed in what they believe. They want to graduate and land a good job with benefits and a salary that will make them feel good about themselves. They rarely talk about values. You can imagine what a surprise it was for me when I learned that my teacher was determined to help his students understand that the way you succeed in life is to have strong values. That’s what Coach Herb Brooks did with the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team, and that’s exactly what Dr. Anthony Mussari is trying to accomplish by having us participate in the Miracle at Lake Placid Project.

Before I became involved in this project I knew nothing about Coach Herb Brooks. Now I know that he wanted to teach his players the importance of being men of character, integrity and to work hard on and off the ice.

The most important lesson I learned from studying the life of Herb Brooks is a simple one: miracles don’t happen. It’s how much you put into something that gives you results. Brooks knew how far to push his players, and in the end it was hard work, dedication and determination that gave them the gold. It’s amazing how one man can transform the sport of ice hockey by making the game his own.

While doing this project it occurred to me is that we have our own Herb Brooks right in front of our eyes. He’s older than Herb Brooks was when he coached his team to the gold in 1980, but he is just as determined and focused as was Coach Brooks. Like the coach, he never lets you settle for less, and he knows how to take you to a different level in your life. He is not afraid to tell you the truth no matter what the consequences. In 1979, Herb Brooks took a group of young men, and he transformed their lives. During this project, I experienced a transformation. The setting was a classroom. The coach was my teacher. The result was an eye opening experience that made me realize that if you want something badly enough you must work hard, and never lower your standards. That’s the recipe for a gold medal performance in everything you do.

Thank you Coach Brooks. Thank you Doc.