Roger Neilson and Herb Brooks have left the hockey world behind. Although they are gone from this earth and the many lives they have touched, both physically and through their words and actions, will mourn for a very long time.
Neilson lost a battle with cancer on the 21st of June of this year. The always humble Neilson had coaching stints with Toronto, Buffalo, Vancouver, Los Angeles, the New York Rangers, Florida, Philadelphia and Ottawa. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last November and was also honoured with the Order of Canada in May. Peterborough, Ontario paid tribute to the place Neilson began his career by renaming George Street, Roger Neilson Way.
His most common nickname was “Captain Video,” representing the many hours he would spend watching the recently played game on tape to pick up things that could be used in the future. He also was the perpetrator of the infamous “white towel affair” during the playoffs of the 1981-82 season. After a perceived injustice from an official he took a white towel, put it on the end of a hockey stick and raised it high in the air to silently protest the incident.
Brooks died in an automobile accident on the 18th of August of this year. Considered one of the great innovators of the game, he coached Minnesota, New Jersey and Pittsburgh of the NHL, but was probably best known for taking the 1980 American team to gold at the Olympics dubbed the “Miracle on Ice.” He also returned to coach the 2002 US team to an Olympic silver medal. He is also a member of the US Hockey Hall of Fame and US state Senator Cal Larson has recommended that the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota should be renamed Herb Brooks Arena.
It is a certainty that many hockey players of the future have lost out on a potentially life-changing experience in being coached by one of these great men. Hockey can take comfort in the knowledge that two men have each left a legacy that will go on through the generations.