Miracle on Ice– The Culture Shift to Shock The Nation

Feb 2024

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” – Coach Herb Brooks
The year was 1980. The Cold War was well underway, money was tight, times were
tough, and morale was low. Doused in sweat, tears, and dreams sat the team who
shifted the nation with a singular sports win, later to be deemed “The Miracle on Ice.” 44
years later, we continue to assess the culture of the USA hockey team, and the key to
their unbelievable win against the Soviets that fateful winter night.

The 1980 “Miracle on Ice” game’s effect on American history certainly brought eyes on
the team. They started as competitors, with 68 men competing to make the final roster
of 20 players. Naturally, they weren’t a “family at first.” Once the renowned 20 had been
selected, Herb Brooks had to work to initiate the transition from foe to friends. How did he take these ferocious competitors and turn them into fiercely loyal teammates? By focusing on the culture. Below are some of Herb’s methods that you can apply to your
OWN teams:

1. The Name on the Jersey: Herb said to his players in training “The name on the
front of the jersey is a hell of a lot more important than the name on the back.”
Upon his players’ inability to gel after competing for positions and playing time,
Brooks reminded his players of the jersey they wore so proudly… the USA jersey.
Though each jersey has the last name of its player written on the back, Brooks
took the opportunity to remind the team that the three letters written on the front
were worth far more than the back, as it was the tie that bound the entire team.

2. Importance of Hard Work: As Brooks was the last player cut from the 1960
USA team, he knew what it took to be on the team, as well as the importance of
hard work to achieve the gold medal. The selfless dedication he showed to the
1980 team was his display of how important hard work was for success, and in
turn, his players’ dedication to him and the team was their way of reciprocating.
The result of both parties’ commitment to grit? A gold medal and a win that will
never be forgotten.

3. “Again.”: Any player who had Herb Brooks as a coach knows this was his
favorite word. Countless liners, laps, stick drills, and most importantly, repetition,
were part of Brooks’ training technique. His endless dedication to repetition and
practice was unmatched by any other team that season, as was his success.

4. Empowering your Players to Dream Bigger: The odds on the USA beating the
Soviets that day was 1,000-1. To say the Americans were the underdog would be
an understatement. The average American coach could have given up after
every news outlet had bet against them. However, Herb Brooks was no average
man, and he believed that this was no average team. His relentless expectations
were merely a reflection of his belief in his team. Though at times the road to
victory was harrowing, exhausting, and maybe even soul crushing, each player
knew that there was a method to his madness, and a commitment to the sport. If
there is any singular takeaway from the “Miracle on Ice”, it is that in the heart of
every champion is a believer.

“Great moments are born from great opportunities.”
In 1980, Herb Brooks uttered these words to a locker room full of determined,
exhausted, and talented young men. Little did he know, by the end of their journey
together, those men would become champions.