U.S. Olympic Hockey Team

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Winning Nomination

For a truly Minnesotan sport, hockey has no equal. The Finns, Swedes, mixed in with some Canadians and other immigrants, brought the game to the Iron Range in the early part of the century and turned the area into the absolute center of United States hockey. Legions of young kids laced up every day and played at the rink until it was too dark or they shut the lights off on you or your parents made you come home for dinner or something. It was a religion--for decades and now for more than a century. Nothing else mattered during the winter for many Minnesota kids.

In 1980, as an eight-year-old hockey player from Virginia, Minnesota, I did not know that hockey was not the center of the universe--and that playing for the United States Olympic team was not the highest honor that could possibly be achieved in the entire world. That is what kids from the Range aspired to do when they grew up. I'm sure that for many others across the country, hockey was a foreign and obscure sport that they knew very little of. For many people in states other than Minnesota or reluctantly Massachusetts, hockey was for the Canadians or the Finns or the Russians.

We knew that here, in Minnesota, hockey mattered.

The fact that the United States Olympic team was made up of amateur college kids, and was not seeded very high, was almost entirely lost on me. I knew that the USSR and Finland were very good. But it didn't matter. Our team was mostly from Minnesota and we play hockey pretty good--we should; we've been doing it our entire lives. These players even represented my home town and the Iron Range as a whole--I though we could win. They must be good if they came from around here and are playing for the United States Olympic team.

What I did not know of, or at least as an eight-year-old think too hard about, was the political and economic situation of the time. It makes me think of our neighbor, a miner with a very Finnish last name, who watched all the games with us. I'm sure he knew all about inflation, energy, unemployment, Iranian hostages, Afghanistan, etc. I'm sure my dad did, too, but I've never talked to him about it. Thinking about it now, after the taconite expansion of the early- to mid-1970s, this was the beginning of the end for the mines up there. And I think they knew it. But they felt they had a hockey team and a coach that was fighting for us. And hockey mattered.

I watched those games lying on the floor about a foot away from the TV. Nothing I have ever witnessed has been so completely mesmerizing, satisfying, and above all motivating. Nothing will ever compare. From my viewpoint, one foot from the TV screen, in Virginia, Minnesota, on Minnesota's Iron Range, the universe was in focus. All the world revolved around Minnesota hockey and I was near the center of it. As a young hockey player, I didn't know that the rest of the world didn't expect to be enlightened, to be shocked and inspired by this team. I thought that this was just the way it was. Herb Brooks coached a team second to none in all of sports history. He did it with Minnesotans. And the whole world knew something I believed: Minnesota hockey was the best in the world. Miracle or not.
~Brian Weber, Brainerd, MN



Runner-up Nominations

Coached by Minnesotan Herb Brooks and twelve Minnesota college players on the team. It was the greatest underdog sports story of the late 20th century and is still talked about today.
~Cheri Thies

Half of the roster for the 1980 hockey team were Minnesotans, and even the coach was a Minnesota man himself. This is truly one of Minnesota's greatest attributes and will be remembered by the whole nation. This achievement personified Minnesotan life and earned us a characteristic that many think of when they think Minnesota.
~Dan Wiley

Herb Brooks As the coach of the 1980 Olympic Hockey Team. It became the sporting event of the century. Born and raised in Minnesota he also led the U of M Hockey team to become National Champions. We should be very proud of this Minnesotan and should include him in the Minnesota 150.
~Zora Burnham, Shoreview, MN

Herb Brooks Coached the Dream Team in the Olympics. Many of the team were Minnesotans, also. Went on to coach many other famous hockey teams. A true Minnesotan, Saint Paulite and Johnson graduate.
~Judy Purcell, Saint Paul, MN

Gold Medal, hockey, 1980 Olympics with key win in semis over the Soviet Union.
~Dick Warren, St. Paul, MN

Minnesota's contribution to the 1980 USA Hockey team was huge! Coach Herb Brooks and many homegrown players made a deep impact on the historic gold medal team at the Lake Placid Olympics. As a little boy watching this team, I only needed to look as far as the next town to see young men from Minnesota having a chance to represent our country on an international stage. The seemingly invincible hockey team from the Soviet Union was defeated, but instead of using professional players Coach Brooks chose to use an unlikely group of college players. This was especially timely to our country as we were in dire need of an event like this to help unify our nation. In the midst of a recession, still reeling from Watergate and Vietnam and the uncertainty of the political climate, this event acted to pull together many factions to stand behind this wonderful team. I don't mean to sound like some cheesy sports analogy but these Minnesotans are heroes to me not because of their skates and sticks but because of their heart!
~Jim Nelson, Minneapolis, MN

Herb Brooks True dreamer who achieved his dream. Do you believe in miracles?
~Debra Kuehl, New Brighton, MN

Believe in miracles.
~Minnesota Four BJCY, Oakdale, MN


Contents

History

(1980)

A Minnesota hockey legend stuns the world

If you asked Herb Brooks (1937-2003) about his greatest hockey achievement, he would answer that it was playing on St. Paul's Johnson High School team in 1955, when it won the state championship. He won that honor with a group of his best friends, he would say, and that had made all the difference.

But ask a hockey fan--or almost any Minnesotan, for that matter--that same question, and you would likely get a different answer. Herb Brooks is best known for the "Miracle on Ice," when he coached the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team to a gold medal. Composed mostly of college-aged players, twelve of them from Minnesota, who had been teammates and rivals for years, the U.S. team defeated Finland in the final match after beating the Soviet Union in the previous game. The Soviet Union was the odds-on favorite, having won four consecutive Olympic titles, from 1964 to 1976.

So much for the facts. The 1980 victory was one of those memorable moments that transcend sports history and become the stuff of legend. Let's hear it straight from Brian Weber of Brainerd, Minnesota: "In 1980, as an eight-year-old hockey player from Virginia, Minnesota, I did not know that hockey was not the center of the universe, and that playing for the United States Olympic team was not the highest honor that could possibly be achieved in the entire world. The fact that the United States Olympic team was made up of amateur college kids, and was not seeded very high, was almost entirely lost on me. I knew that the USSR and Finland were very good. But it didn't matter--our team was mostly from Minnesota and we play hockey pretty good. We should--we've been doing it our entire lives.

"What I did not know of, or at least as an eight-year-old think too hard about, was the political and economic situation of the time. It makes me think of our neighbor, a miner with a very Finnish last name, who watched all the games with us. I'm sure he knew all about inflation, energy, unemployment, Iran hostages, Afghanistan, etc. I'm sure my dad did, too, but I've never talked to him about it. Thinking about it now, after the taconite expansion of the early-to-mid-1970s, this was the beginning of the end for the mines up there. And I think they knew it. But they felt they had a hockey team and a coach that was fighting for us. And hockey mattered.

"I watched those games lying on the floor about a foot away from the TV. Nothing else I have witnessed has been so completely mesmerizing, satisfying, and above all motivating. From my viewpoint, one foot from the TV screen, in Virginia, Minnesota, on Minnesota's Iron Range, the universe was in focus."

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