He pushed them past the point of exhaustion. Skating back and forth on the ice, doing suicides endlessly. The team doctor even stepped on the ice to stop the madness. But the tenacious coach forged on…driving the only message that gives the team a fighting chance. This was a team of amateurs facing a group of highly trained, highly skilled hockey teams from all over the world. The US Team winning was considered a joke. But not to this coach and he knew how to make it happen.
They were puking on the ice now, driven to the edge.
The lights were turned out. The doctor urged him to stop. But he didn’t.
The assistant was clearly not in favor…but the coach pushed on. Challenging the assistant to blow that whistle – and he did.
Finally, after endless pain, agony and physical exhaustion, one player spoke up:
Player: “Mike Eruzioni! Winthrop Massachusetts!
Coach: “Who do you play for?”
Player: “I play for…The United States of America!”
Coach: “That’s all, gentlemen.”
Herb Brooks was coaching what would become the legendary US Olympic Hockey Team in the 1980 Winter Olympics. They went on to win the Gold medal, defeating the Russians in an epic and thrilling fashion. And against all odds.
Why did Eruzioni’s comment seem to matter so much?
Team. They could not win as individuals. They did not have the talent and skill. And even if they did, it would not have been enough – not against the Russian team, or most of the other top teams for that matter. There was and still is only one way to accomplish that kind of victory. Team.
Nothing beats a well-trained team, driven by commitment, tenacity, and loyalty. A successful team is far greater than the sum of its individual parts.
And that’s exactly what Herb Brooks built.