The Foundation features an advisory committee and funds research to understand the best methods for creating exceptional hockey learning environments.
The Foundation will advocate for a strong Minnesota State High School League that will help keep the best players in Minnesota during the winter. The Foundation will also work to remove violence from all levels of play by lobbying officials to enforce rules consistently, regardless of game situations. Consequently, skilled players will reach their full potential, and the game will focus on speed and skill – a better learning environment for individuals, teams and the sport as a whole.
HBF is working to increase “no-check” opportunities for youth players. While checking is an important part of hockey, our research shows that it is best delayed until age 15. Kids younger than 15 should focus on skill development, skating, stickhandling, shooting, passing, etc. The HBF will also work to provide a no check league for high school players that are no longer playing in the high school program.
How does the Foundation memorialize Herb’s legacy and make his ideas reality without him? Herb prepared the direction, goals and even identified the individuals to lead the Foundation. He set the example and prepared an army of volunteers. For years, these exceptional people have been putting the pieces together, while constantly finding and employing innovative ideas of their own.
Herb wanted to help the United States become a world-class hockey power by providing the best training methods and facilities. He wanted American youth players to have the best opportunities to develop their skills—along with their character.
Change was needed
Transformation, what the HBF aims for, challenges consensus and fosters leadership and entrepreneurship—rethinking everything. Herb wanted to transform, rather than “reform.”
Herb was an activist who never backed away from challenging the status quo in life or hockey. His desire to grow the sport was clear during the last years of his life. As a result, the Foundation that bears his name dares to be different, and focuses on innovation. It caters to overachievers and over-preparers—people who excel through hard work and persistence.
Additionally, the Foundation encourages courage. That is, participants dare to dream. They are not afraid to fail. They are lifelong learners and teachers who love the game.
Back to the kids
Herb’s ideas were shaped by hockey’s rich history. His mantra, to “give the game back to the kids,” was his way of taking the game from good to great.
Herb grew up when players owned the game. Kids played hockey on frozen ponds and outdoor rinks around Minnesota, for fun. Herb and his friends played almost every day and evening, from about Thanksgiving until mid-February. Snowfall and the elements made maintenance difficult, so the outdoor season was 10 to 12 weeks at best.
A dearth of indoor rinks meant the season ended when the ice melted. During that short season, however, young Herbie and his friends would play between 200 and 300 hours of unstructured hockey each winter—mostly at Phalen Park in St. Paul. An average weekend would include a bag lunch and 15-20 hours of unstructured hockey practice. By contrast, a typical youth hockey season included 12 games a year and a practice or two a week with a coach—about 30 hours of structured hockey per season.
A generation ago, Johnson High School in St. Paul was a Minnesota hockey powerhouse. It boasted four state championships, and until 1965, was the only school south of Duluth to have won any. Its success wasn’t due to better coaching, facilities, or innate athletic ability of East Side kids. Instead, it was the countless hours of unstructured practice by the Phalen Park rink rats. Hockey was part of the culture on the St. Paul’s East Side. Kids went to the rink/pond to meet their friends and have fun playing hockey. The game belonged to them.
Tellingly, although he was a legendary coach (he won all four titles), Johnson’s Rube Gustafson didn’t even know how to skate. He directed practices from center ice in overshoes. And Phalen Park was no better than other Twin Cities ice facilities of that era.
Herb’s “giving the game back to the kids” efforts were based on his youth experience, what he considered the chief reason for Johnson High’s success. Moreover, like Herb and his friends on the East Side years ago, the 1980 Olympic team was a group of rink rats.
According to Herb, youth hockey is too structured. We should combine the best “rink-rat methods”—lots of unstructured play and kids having fun—with outstanding coaching and facilities. That blend will result in more kids playing longer, having more fun, and developing better skills. It is a “model” he discussed often.
The Foundation’s Fundraising Advisory Committee secures funding for ongoing operations. It has helped establish numerous programs, chief among them the Herb Brooks Training Center, the state-of-the art, 12,000 square foot off-ice training facility located at the National Sports Center.
A for-profit model as a partner
A for-profit model will be explored in order to help fund the development and ongoing programs of the Foundation. An advisory committee will be set up to explore and implement this model.