"He always said the next Gretzky could be in inner-city Detroit, a black kid, a Hmong kid. He was always willing to find him."
-Ross Bernstein on Herb Brooks' passion for growing the game of hockey.
As the coach of the Miracle On Ice team in 1980, Herb Brooks served as a general in the allegorical war that sparked an American enthusiasm for hockey. And if he had wanted to, he could've spent the rest of his career as a purely inspirational figure, waving to the crowd and cashing checks, just as goaltender Jim Craig had. But that wasn't Herb.
In 1986, Brooks left the NHL after four years coaching the New York Rangers. He returned to Minnesota to lend his celebrity to a Division III St. Cloud State program that was looking to make the jump to Division I. Not only did he take an enormous paycut to $15,000, but he also spent his free time lobbying the legislature to build National Hockey Center. And though he only stayed for that one season, it was enough to create a lasting and successful program whose legacy spawned two more Division I teams in the State of Hockey.
Brooks credits his time in St. Cloud to his mentor, legendary coach John Mariucci, who insisted that Herb return to Minnesota to grow the game, a duty he had always endeavored to instill in his young protégé. Yet, the spirit of Brooks' accomplishment can be credited just as easily to his father, who had established one of the first youth hockey associations in Minnesota. Growing the game was a part of who Brooks was as a person, and he got his hands dirty doing it. He was so much more than the coach of a symbolic win or the orator of inspirational speeches.