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Miracle Man
E.M. Swift
August 18, 2003
Died
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August 18, 2003

Miracle Man

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Died

Of injuries sustained in a car accident near Minneapolis on Monday afternoon, the innovative hockey coach Herb Brooks, 66. One of the giants of U.S. hockey, Brooks was best known as the strategist behind the "Miracle on Ice" team that won a gold medal for the U.S. at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics, a feat that SI selected as the premier athletic moment of the 20th century.

Though calculating and demanding as any old-school coach, Brooks had a modernistic approach to the game, emphasizing speed and wide-open play. A two-time Olympian ('64, '68) as a forward, he coached his alma mater, Minnesota, to three national titles in the 1970s. In his 1980 Olympic post he combined newfangled methods (psychological profiles to evaluate players) with an authoritarian manner that often grated on his players and his bosses at USA Hockey. Still, he molded an unheralded bunch of college kids into a team that captured the hearts of America. The U.S.'s 4-3 semifinal win over the Soviet Union, then the best team in the world, was one of the great upsets in the history of sports.

Brooks went on to coach four NHL teams, the Rangers, North Stars, Penguins and Devils, putting together a 219-221-66-2 record. He hated the clutch-and-grab style and was outspoken against hockey violence. His final coaching stint came during the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, where he guided the NHL stars from the U.S. to a silver medal, losing to Canada, 5-2, in the final. "For me it's exciting just to look at an open sheet of ice," Brooks told SI in 1999, "All I see are possibilities."

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