When Herb Brooks became the men’s hockey coach of the fledgling St. Cloud State University men’s hockey team in 1986-1987, he had already coached the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team to its “Miracle on Ice” gold medal in Lake Placid and had just come off a four-year stint as the head coach of the New York Rangers.
His mission in St. Cloud was very different that winning gold medals or Stanley Cups. By taking the SCSU job, Brooks hoped parlay his iconic status in American hockey to jump-start the creation of new NCAA Division I hockey programs in Minnesota.
At the time, the state boasted two programs, the University of Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth. Now 27 years later, Minnesota boasts five DI programs (the original two have been joined by St. Cloud State, Minnesota State-Mankato and Bemidji State), regularly sends home state teams to the Frozen Four, and has created a viable college hockey pipeline for Minnesota players to reach the highest level of professional hockey, the National Hockey League.
Quite a vision fulfilled.
And on September 28, 2013, St. Cloud State University, fresh off a Frozen Four appearance last spring, honored their original coach by re-dedicating the newly renovated and expanded National Hockey Center as the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center.
"It can happen here," said Bob Motzko, current St. Cloud State men’s coach, to about 1,000 people gathered Sept. 28 to see the results of a $14.7 million expansion and renovation investment -- $6.5 million from the 2008 Legislature and the remainder from donors.
The arena, which for all purposes looks brand new, boasts murals and art work honoring Herb Brooks, Husky hockey greats from the past, including 2013 Hobey Baker winner Drew LeBlanc. The centerpiece is a new 50,000 square-foot, four-story, glass atrium. Also included is a new team store, 14 corporate suites, home locker rooms, training room and the Husky Den club room.
In addition to Motzko, speakers at the re-dedication included Herb’s son Dan, who represented the family and the Herb Brooks Foundation, SCSU President Earl H. Potter III, men’s and women’s hockey captains Nic Dowd and Amy Olson, and SCSU Student Government Association President Eric Petersen.
Also in attendance were Dan Brooks’ wife, Marne, and daughters Grace and Lucia.