SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- This time, another Herb Brooks miracle isn't needed -- just a little magic and motivation from 1980 to restore the damaged image and unproductive bottom line of the U.S. Olympic hockey team.
Brooks hasn't changed all that much since his famed Miracle on Ice in 1980 with a bunch of U.S. collegians. He's 65 now, not 43, but his coaching style -- a little Canadian, a lot European -- is very much the same.
Still, he is asked constantly, why do it? He's already done a coaching job against which all others will be judged for future generations, so why coach the Americans again -- especially many of the room-trashing, no-medal misfits from the 1998 Nagano team?
"I didn't want to tranquilize my life, shelter myself or limit myself in terms of taking another step into a competitive environment," Brooks said Monday. "Some people do those sort of things and create a comfort zone and I don't want to do that. I didn't want to stand by the wayside and watch."
Especially after 1998 when, in the hours after failing to medal in the first nearly all-NHL Olympics in Nagano, a few U.S. players trashed their rooms, their image and, ultimately, the very game they play.
But Brooks, who spent about half of those 22 years since Lake Placid coaching in the NHL, said he doesn't need to be a father figure or an authoritarian to Chris Chelios or Brett Hull or Mike Richter. Instead, he plans to point them in the right way with his years of experience and instincts on how to play the international game.
"I haven't mentioned it (1998) to our guys, but I have talked about it with our captain, Mr. Chelios, but we haven't made a theme about it," he said. "It's over and done and over, and we've talked about what we have to do to represent our country, which we are so proud of."
And while the dreamy-eyed kids of 1980 who only hoped to play pro hockey have been replaced by millionaire NHLers who may or may not view the Olympics as a hurried-up, draining distraction, Brooks said the players really aren't that different.
"We share the same enthusiasm for the game, the same competitive nature -- and we all have the little boy in us, even the most sophisticated NHL player," he said.
What this team ultimately will be judged by, of course, not only is its conduct, but its performance. Winning in 1980 was initially seen as impossible, but doing so 22 years later against better opponents -- even with a better team -- will be comparably difficult, Brooks said.
"There is a tougher playing field today from top to bottom," he said.
And it's not as if Brooks doesn't have experience with NHL players; he's a Pittsburgh Penguins scout who refers to his owner as "Mr. Lemieux" -- as in Mario, Canada's team captain. He has coached four NHL teams since 1980 and probably would still be coaching the Penguins -- he was their interim coach in the 1999-2000 season -- if his wife wasn't unhappy with him being away from their Minnesota home so much.
Some of Brooks' thoughts as what he calls "possibly the greatest hockey anybody will ever see":
--How to coach with so little preparation: "I'm not going to be telling any of these players anything they don't know. There will be a few friendly reminders to find a common denominator on how we can play with and without the puck, how we can stay alive."
--On whether Mike Richter, Mike Dunham or Tom Barrasso will start in goal: "I'll probably grab the goalie coach and say, 'Don't mess up.' "
--On the bigger Olympic ice: "I've talked to Wayne Gretzky about it and the Canadians and Americans, we play a different game. We're more of a North-South mentality; the Europeans, when they get together, it's like old home week. They know how to play the game on the big sheet."
--On the pressure to medal at home: "The pressure's on Canada. There's no controversy, Canada hasn't won in 50 years and I say that with all due respect."
--On who his five shooters would be in an overtime shootout: "I know if I had Mr. Gretzky ..." -- a joking reference to Canada's decision not to use Gretzky in a 1998 shootout against Czech goalie Dominik Hasek.
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