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No Forgetting Herb Brooks Friendship

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January 27, 2019

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Random thoughts and notes one day after a vacation in southern California.

The Golden Gophers team that won the NCAA Hockey title in 1979 was honored last night at 3M Arena at Mariucci when Minnesota and Wisconsin played their second game in as many nights in Minneapolis. The Gophers won the school’s third men’s hockey national title on March 23, 1979 in Detroit with a 4-3 victory over North Dakota.

Unfortunately, legendary coach Herb Brooks, who died in 2003 at age 66, wasn’t there to celebrate the 40th anniversary of this special team. Brooks won three national championships in a six year period, with the last in 1979.

Brooks would orchestrate the “Miracle on Ice” for the U.S. a year later in 1980. That Olympic team stunned the world with its upset victory over the Soviet Union. Shortly after the Winter Olympics, I asked Brooks to speak at a banquet for a non-profit organization. He refused to accept a payment for his speech, despite his celebrity status that allowed him to earn large speaker’s fees in corporate America.

Brooks was a friend for decades, always available to meet or talk, and most often offering the most comprehensive of answers to questions. He was one of those individuals (we all have them) who you never stop missing.

Gophers athletic director Mark Coyle was the latest local sports newsmaker to be interviewed on “Behind the Game,” the Twin Cities cable TV program co-hosted by Patrick Klinger and Bill Robertson. No one received more praise from Coyle during the program than first-year women’s basketball coach Lindsay Whalen. “I am not sure I have met a more competitive person,” he said.

Coyle hired Whalen last spring despite the former Gopher Final Four guard having no previous coaching experience. During the program he talked about how Hall of Fame Connecticut coach Geno Aureimma endorsed a potential Whalen hire on the telephone.

Whalen’s team cruised through the nonconference schedule but has been struggling in league games (13-6 overall, 2-6 Big Ten). Still, the Whalen mystique as a Minnesota native and former star for both the Gophers and Lynx sustains her popularity with fans and media.

All that adoration over the years never has inflated Whalen’s ego. On “Behind the Game” Coyle described his coach as “low ego, high output.”

In addition to cable, the Coyle interview can also be viewed on YouTube.

Men’s college basketball authority Jay Bilas, writing last week for Espn.com, ranked Iowa No. 24 and Minnesota No. 57 in his national listing of the top 68 teams. The Hawkeyes and Gophers play late today at Williams Arena.

Tre Jones

In his article Bilas describes former Apple Valley star point guard Tre Jones, now a freshman at Duke, as a “next level defender.”

It’s a rewarding time for Mike Max who has been named sports director at WCCO TV, succeeding Mark Rosen. Hard work has characterized Max’s 33-year media career covering Minnesota sports. He exercises everyday and has missed only a half day of work all these years.

The Minnesota Football Coaches Association will induct Max into its Hall of Fame on March 30.

On WCCO Radio’s “Sports Huddle” program this morning Max introduced the local weather forecast by quipping, “It’s colder than a Sid Hartman handshake.”

It was a contrast (understatement) returning to Minneapolis after vacationing in the Palm Springs-Palm Desert area with all blue skies and temps in the 70s. From personal experience and research of warm climate temperatures, my opinion is that part of the country has the best January weather in the continental United States.

During the first several days of our trip we did encounter cloudy and rainy weather in Carlsbad, California (about 35 minutes north of San Diego). Then when we drove Highway 74 through the mountains to Palm Desert, we got the surprise of our vacation.

Descending from about 3,000 feet on narrow, twisting, two-lane highway, we found ourselves surrounded by dense clouds. Visibility was about 30 feet in front of the car. There were no taillights to follow from a vehicle ahead on this harrowing drive down into the Palm Desert basin. All I could see to guide our way were the yellow lines dividing the road. A mental lapse here or there and we could have collided with another vehicle, or driven off the cliff.

We survived and went on to enjoy our time in the Coachella Valley including attending the Desert Classic in La Quinta. The PGA tournament has known many names through the years including the Bob Hope Desert Classic. This year the tournament celebrated 60 years while featuring southern California native and legend Phil Mickelson.

Lefty” is a personal favorite, which of course hardly makes me unique. Ironically, he shot an opening day 60 on the Classic’s 60th birthday. He led the tournament going into the final day on January 20, but lost by a couple of strokes.

The tournament has a celebrity-filled history that includes famous names from both Hollywood and Washington, D.C. Presidents Bill Clinton, Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush all played as amateurs in the 1995 tournament. Arnold Palmer won more Desert Classics than any other golfer, with his last championship coming in 1973.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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