Miracle on Ice architect led the Golden Gophers to three NCAA titles in the 1970s
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – Jan. 20, 2021 – Former Minnesota head coach Herb Brooks has been named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association’s Coach of the Decade for the 1970s, the WCHA announced Wednesday. The honor is presented by Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup and SPIRE Credit Union.
Brooks led Minnesota to the school’s first three national championships in the 1970s, winning NCAA titles in 1974, 1976 and 1979 along with a runner-up finish in 1975. In WCHA play, Brooks’ Golden Gopher squads captured four postseason titles and one regular season crown. The St. Paul, Minn., native compiled a seven-season record of 167-97-18 (.643) with Minnesota from 1972-1979, including a 119-83-14 (.583) mark in the WCHA.
Brooks’ pupils included All-Americans Les Auge, Mike Polich and Bill Baker with Polich also adding WCHA Most Valuable Player honors in 1974-75. Three of Brooks’ netminders also earned WCHA Goaltending Championships under his tutelage – Brad Shelstad, Larry Thayer and Jeff Tscherne.
But his lasting legacy stretched far beyond his time in Minnesota as he coached the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team – comprised primarily of WCHA players – to one of the greatest upsets in sports history. After an unbeaten run through pool play, the United States took down the mighty Soviet Union, 4-3, on Feb. 22, 1980 before clinching an improbable Gold medal two days later with a 4-2 win over Finland.
Fourteen members of that U.S. squad played collegiately in the WCHA, including nine who skated for Brooks at Minnesota – goaltender Steve Janaszak; defensemen Bill Baker and Mike Ramsey and forwards Neal Broten, Steve Christoff, Rob McClanahan, Buzz Schneider, Eric Strobel and Phil Verchota. They were joined by North Dakota’s Dave Christian, Wisconsin’s Mark Johnson and Bob Suter and Minnesota Duluth’s John Harrington and Mark Pavelich to complete the WCHA contingent in Lake Placid.
Following the Olympics, Brooks spent four seasons behind the bench with the New York Rangers from 1981-85, earning NHL Coach of the Year honors in 1982. Brooks would go on NHL stops with the Minnesota North Stars, New Jersey and Pittsburgh.
Brooks returned to the collegiate level for one season, coaching then-Division III St. Cloud State to a 25-10-1 record and a third-place finish in the NCAA Division III playoffs in 1986-87. In 2013, the Huskies’ arena was renamed the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in his honor.
He capped his coaching career by leading the United States to a Silver medal at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake.
As a player, Brooks played three varsity seasons at Minnesota from 1956-59, scoring 45 points in 75 games with the Maroon and Gold before going to a long international career, playing in the 1964 and 1968 Olympics and appearing on six other U.S. national teams.
Among his many honors, Brooks was awarded the Lester Patrick Award in 2002; was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990, the IIHF Hall of Fame in 1999 and Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto in 2006.
Brooks is the third of seven Coach of the Decade honorees that will be announced by the WCHA during the 2020-21 season. The WCHA is also honoring an outstanding player and selecting an All-Decade Team for each decade as the league celebrates 70 Years of Excellence. The WCHA 1970s Player of the Decade will be announced Jan. 21.
Herb Brooks Year-by-Year
Season School (Conference) Overall Conference (Place) WCHA Postseason NCAA
1972-73 Minnesota (WCHA) 15-16-3 12-13-3 (6th) WCHA First Round
1973-74 Minnesota (WCHA) 22-11-6 14-9-5 (2nd) Regional Champion NCAA Champion
1974-75 Minnesota (WCHA) 31-10-1 24-8-0 (1st) Regional Champion NCAA Runner-up
1975-76 Minnesota (WCHA) 28-14-2 18-13-1 (3rd) Regional Champion NCAA Champion
1976-77 Minnesota (WCHA) 17-21-3 13-16-3 (7th) WCHA Semifinals
1977-78 Minnesota (WCHA) 22-14-2 18-13-1 (4th) WCHA First Round
1978-79 Minnesota (WCHA) 32-11-1 20-11-1 (2nd) Regional Champion NCAA Champion
Totals 167-97-18 119-83-14
Other Top Coaches of the 1970s
John MacInnes, Michigan Tech: Won one NCAA title, three WCHA regular season crowns and four WCHA postseason championships as the Huskies posted a 239-126-15 (.649) mark for the decade. Bob Johnson, Wisconsin: Won two NCAA championships, one WCHA regular season title and two league postseason crowns as the Badgers compiled a 231-100-18 (.688) record during the decade.
Previous WCHA Coach of the Decade Winners
1950s: Vic Heyliger, Michigan
1960s: Murray Armstrong, Denver
For more on the 1970s and the rest of the WCHA’s history, visit wcha.com.
Celebrating 70 Years of Excellence
The WCHA will celebrate 70 Years of Excellence throughout the 2020-21 season. The league will name all-decade teams and players and coaches of the decade for each of its seven decades. The teams and individuals will be selected by a panel of current and former WCHA staffers and media members who have or are currently covering the WCHA. More than 200 nominees were submitted for consideration by the 21 schools that have called the WCHA home since 1951.
About the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Men’s League
The Western Collegiate Hockey Association, among the most historic, tradition-rich and successful conferences in all of collegiate athletics, is marking its 69th season of men’s competition in 2020-21. The 10-team NCAA Division I conference consists of the University of Alabama in Huntsville (Chargers), the University of Alaska Anchorage (Seawolves), the University of Alaska (Nanooks), Bemidji State University (Beavers), Bowling Green State University (Falcons), Ferris State University (Bulldogs), Lake Superior State University (Lakers), Michigan Technological University (Huskies), Minnesota State University (Mavericks) and Northern Michigan University (Wildcats). For more information, visit wcha.com.
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