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US Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 1990

Hebert "Herb" Brooks
Willard Ikola
John "Connie" Pleban

1990 United States Hockey Hall of Fame Enshrinee

Herb Brooks, is one of American’s most celebrated coaches.  The St. Paul “East Sider” got his first taste of championship hockey when he led his St. Paul Johnson squad to the Minnesota high school title in 1955.  He would go on to play at the University of Minnesota for Coach John Mariucci, and then proceed to play on several U.S. National and Olympic teams from 1962-70.

Despite being an excellent skater, it was his innovative coaching that put him into the Hall of Fame.  He took over at his alma mater in 1972, and led the last-place Gopher squad to an NCAA title just two years later.  It would be the first of three crowns at the U of M for the coach, who would then go on to lead the fabled 1980 U.S. Olympic team to the “Miracle on Ice” gold medal.

From there, Brooks entered the NHL coaching ranks, first with the New York Rangers, where, after three years, he was named Coach of the Year, and later with his hometown North Stars, in 1988.  In between, he even guided St. Cloud State (Minn.) for a year, bringing them up from Division III to Division I status.

Brooks went on to a successful business career which included motivation speaking, TV analysis, NHL scouting and occasional coaching.  Tragically, Herbie died in a car accident in August of 2003.  One of our nation’s most charismatic and inventive coaches, he was a true American hero. 

1990 United States Hockey Hall of Fame Enshrinee

With his infamous hounds-toothed had, “Ike” was best known throughout the Land of 10,000 Lakes for his amazing coaching record of 600-140-38 while at suburban Edina High School from 1958-91.

Ikola grew up as yet another in a long line of incredible goaltenders to come out of tiny Eveleth, MN.  Legends such as Frank Brimsek, Mike Karakas and Sam LoPresti, each Hall of Famers, were all heroes of Ikola. While he was fascinated by the heroic figures that preceded him in Eveleth, he more than lived up to the tradition.

As a freshman goalie, in 1947, Ikola’s Golden Bears lost in the Minnesota state tournament semifinals.  Incredibly, he never lost again, running off undefeated seasons to win titles in 1948, ’49 and ’50 as well.

From there, Ikola headed east, to attend the University of Michigan.  After sitting out his freshman year, Ikola then led the Wolverines to the NCAA tournament the next three years, winning a pair of titles.  In Ikola’s sophomore year, Michigan beat Minnesota in the title game, while as a senior, and the only U.S. player on the roster, the Wolverines were upset by eventual champ RPI in the semifinals.

While serving in the military, Ikola played on the 1956 U.S. Olympic team in Corina, Italy, which beat Germany, 7-2, upset Canada, 4-1, and beat Sweden, 6-1, before losing, 4-0, to the Soviet Union.  A final 9-4 victory over Czechoslovakia then gave the U.S. the silver medal.  He also played on U.S. National teams in 1957 and ’58.

In the fall of 1958, Coach John Mariucci talked Edina High School into hiring Ikola on a trial basis as hockey coach.  In his first year, Edina was 4-9-5.  It would prove to be his only sub-.500 year over the next 33 seasons.  After that, his guidance helped create one of the most cohesive youth development structures in the state, as his Edina “Hornets” went on to become a dynasty - winning a record eight state high school tournament titles under his leadership. 

1990 United States Hockey Hall of Fame Enshrinee

Connie Pleban played in the formative days of Northern Minnesota hockey, including Eveleth High School (1930-32) and Eveleth Junior College (1932-34). He played for the Babe Ruth national AAU champs in 1935, and was captain and later player-coach of the Eagle River, WI.  Falcons semi-pro team (1934-38).  He was also player-coach with Eveleth Rangers semipro team (1938-41) and the Marquette, MI Sentinels semipro team (1941-42) before entering the service for World War II.

Returning to Eveleth, Pleban moved on as a coach and builder of amateur hockey serving as player-coach of the Eveleth Rangers again, and then holding the unique post of player-coach-manager of the U.S. National team that won the silver medal in London with a 4-1 record in 1950.  Pleban was also named to reconstruct the U.S. fortunes for the 1952 Olympics as well. His team won the silver medal at Oslo, Norway, with a 6-1-1 record, losing only a 4-2 game to Sweden, while tying the gold medalists from Canada, 3-3.

In 1955, Pleban coached the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and helped lead its transition from small-college to major-college status.  In his four-year tenure at UMD, Pleban’s Bulldog teams never lost a game in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.  As a builder of the game, Pleban also successfully solicited NCAA rule-makers to expand body-checking from half to full ice—a move that would forever change the game.

Pleban went on to coach the U.S. team at the 1961 World Tournament in Geneva, to a 1-5-1 record.  Then, in 1962, after only two preparatory games, he coached the U.S. to a much improved 5-2 record, which included winning the bronze medal at Colorado Springs.

Pleban was a Duluth resident, and helped to organize amateur teams and leagues through the 1960s and 70s, always promoting and advancing the game every step of the way.