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The name on the front of the jersey matters a HELL of a lot more than the name on the back: Legendary Hockey Coach Herb Brooks (1937-2003)

The 1980 Miracle on Ice remains my favorite sporting moment of all time.  It is hard to imagine any scenario that could match the achievement of a group of College Hockey Players (representing a Country not considered a hockey power in those days), defeating the world’s most dominant Team.   Factor in the state of the world in 1980 – and, if there was ever such a thing as a “game transcending sport”, the Miracle on Ice was it. 

As a recently “retired” college goalie in 1980 it was both inspiring and nerve-wracking to live vicariously through Jim Craig for 3 hours. (I still get nervous watching replays).    But even more memorable was learning how Legendary US College Hockey Coach Herb Brooks caused a group of players, many bitter rivals, to suspend egos and make it ONLY about whom they were playing for.  

Mr. Brooks became known for many quotes ("Brooksisms" to his players) but perhaps most of all: the name on the front of the jersey matters a HELL of a LOT more than the one on the back. (Source: Herb Brooks Foundation)

It worked miracles in hockey – why not health care?  What a great patient-focused approach this could be to health care!  Indeed, isn’t it the patient’s name that belongs on the front of the jersey?  

Speaking from personal experience, when I was diagnosed with Guillain Barre, I could not have cared less if the “back” read public, private, traditional, alternative, western, or the man in the moon.  The ONLY word that mattered was effective.   

Ironically, discussion about Health Care Reform in Canada and the US seems to spend a disproportionate amount of time defending ideologies instead of looking at what’s offered.  This would be like Herb Brooks having used a selection process more influenced by a prospective player’s ego and debating skills than his capacity to skate flat out for 60 minutes, play a team game and perform well under intense pressure – or sending them onto the ice without skates.  

We could benefit from Herb Brooks’ example today: Mr. Brooks’ own commitment to the “name on the front of the jersey” was best depicted twenty (20) years earlier in 1960 when, as the last cut from another US Gold Medal Team, Mr. Brooks had the class and humility to say to the Coach who cut him: that he (the coach) must have made the right choice.  (Source: Wikipedia)

In 1980 it was clear Herb Brooks made the right choices.  The Miracle Team was immensely-talented (with many players going on to stellar NHL careers such as Mark Johnson who scored 2 electrifying goals that day) and ultra-conditioned (outscoring opponents 16-3 in third periods); it was also very balanced with key role players.  That said when Captain Mike Eruzione scored the goal heard around the world it was a team of unknowns considered a vast underdogThe joy and surprise of the victory was cheered far beyond the US border: as an example there was even a Paraguayan Stamp – not exactly a hockey power - commemorating the achievement.

I still remember (perhaps with envy) a sign in the crowd that read: Goaled medal for USA.  Notwithstanding Jim Craig’s heroics (and my personal bias for goalies) it might equally have read: Coached medal for USA.

Whether he realized it or not, Herb Brooks’ leadership would help redefine hockey – including accelerating the US emergence as a hockey power on both the men’s and women’s sides. 

Among the outcomes of this emergence is a heightened Canada-US hockey rivalry.

Toward a new rivalry:  Something tells me if Mr. Brooks were tasked to create a winning formula for health care, the discussion would permanently shift to combining the best of all methods to give patients the best chance of getting well and away from egos and self-interest.  That would place the patient’s name on the front of the jersey where it belongs. 

The other expectation is "just like Mr. Brooks figured out how to beat the Soviets at their own game" we would start looking at what services are readily available in countries that are better at health care than us and start modeling what they do - without arguing ideology.  This would logically shift discussion from the "ratio of doctors to people" for example - to "how we keep people out of doctors offices" - by adding tools that help our bodies tap into their innate healing abilities and thereby augment other positive actions like healthy lifestyle practices. 

Perhaps with that approach we could create a new Canada-US rivalry over who has the healthiest population across ALL demographic groups (true universality and equal inclusion within unalienable rights respectively) - instead of who does a better job of justifying "paying for products that (most often) make us sicker - or worse". 

Sound impossible? Probably has the same likelihood as a group of College Hockey Players defeating a team that about a year later thrashed an NHL all-star team representing Canada 8-1. 

Not surprisingly, before the Olympics, experts told Mr. Brooks “a Gold Medal was out of reach” – and it likely was - until he convinced a group of competing players with diverse skills and strengths to suspend egos and self-interest and put the focus where it belonged.  The rest is history! 

That sounds an awful lot like what needs to happen in health care if we are serious about winning. 

In memory – with deep respect and admiration for a Man who clearly walked the talk.

James, 647-289-3791

Replenishing Technologies Inc (RTI) does not diagnose, treat, nor cure any illness or medical condition.  Our services promote wellness and improved athletic performance; results vary.  Readers and users alike are advised to use the information, technologies, and methods presented under the supervision of their family doctor and/or other health professionals they rely upon.  


Replenishing Care’s mission is to help people become as healthy as they possibly can be by matching the best tools available to each person’s health circumstance, goals and needs.

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Replenishing Care does not diagnose, treat, nor cure any illness or medical condition. Our services promote fitness, wellness and improved athletic performance; results vary. Readers and users alike are advised to use the information, technologies, and methods presented under the supervision of their family doctor and/or other health professionals they rely upon. RCC is a division of Replenishing Care and Technologies (RC&T)

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