- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"Oh, it's a lot of bull, psychology."
"Well, wait a minute. Here's what it might show. It's not as important as what goes on out on the ice, but it's something we can use. I don't want to miss anything."
"I don't want to take it," the player said.
Brooks nodded. "O.K. Fine. You just took it. You told me everything I wanted to know." He was steaming.
"How'd I do?"
The next day the player took the test.
What kind of competitor was Brooks looking for? Big strong kids who could skate through a wall! Guys who could fly? Who could pay the price? Who could make the puck tap dance? Good Lord, spare us. Brooks wanted young, educated kids who were willing to break down stereotypes, were willing to throw old wives' tales about conditioning and tactics out the window. He wanted open-minded people who could skate. "The ignorant people, the self-centered people, the people who don't want to expand their thoughts, they're not going to be the real good athletes," Brooks says. "They're not going to be able to keep that particular moment, that game, that season in the proper perspective. I believe it. Understand this world around you."
When Brooks talks about "ignorant, self-centered people who don't want to expand their thoughts," he's describing 90% of the National Hockey League. For better or worse, most of the players trying out for the Olympic team were hoping to jump from there to the pros. So they wanted to show the NHL scouts that they could do it the NHL way—ugh, me fight, me chop, me muck. That doesn't work in international hockey, and Brooks would have none of it. The players had to learn a new style of play in seven months. In simplest terms, they had to learn what any touch-football player knows by the fifth grade—that crisscross patterns and laterals are more effective than the plunge. They had to learn not to retaliate, which is almost un-American.
All that was easy, because weaving, passing, holding onto the puck is simply a more enjoyable way to play the game. Smashing that stereotype was a cinch. But conditioning? There is no mind in the world that is open enough to enjoy the tortures of Herbies.