Minnesota native preps for Olympics, while honoring a Rochester - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Minnesota native preps for Olympics, while honoring a Rochester legend


In the winter of 1980, a man from Minnesota named Herb Brooks had a vision that miracles can happen.

No big names, no NHL experience on his roster, just a dozen Minnesota kids chasing a dream of winning .

Moorhead native Will Borgen is the only player from the 'State of Hockey' that will represent Team USA in this year's Winter Olympics.

"Yeah, it's pretty cool, being from Minnesota I like to represent my state well and just Minnesota hockey in general. So yeah it's pretty cool for me," said Borgen.

38 years later after the "Miracle on Ice', that same dream of winning gold continues in St. Cloud, Minnesota, at the house that Herb built. The National Hockey Center was renamed to the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center in 2013, honoring the late legendary coach. That influence to succeed reaches all the way to Rochester's Jim Johannson, who built this year's Olympic men's hockey roster.

"I'm not sure there's a person that's more important to the development of championship hockey and USA hockey than Jim Johannson, I know it," said St. Cloud State Head Coach Bob Motzko.

Motzko is an Austin, Minnesota native. He also was the coach for the U.S. World Juniors Team in 2016 and 2017, winning gold and bronze medals during that time. He knew Johannson growing up and worked together within USA Hockey.

Johannson's dream of watching his team perform on the Olympic stage was suddenly cut short on Jan. 21st. He died unexpectedly at the age of 53.

"It was just a devastating loss for the hockey world and for all of us that were close with him, said Motzko.

Johannson was a Rochester native, graduating from Mayo High School in 1982. He went on to play college hockey for Wisconsin, winning a national title during his freshman season. He then represented Team USA in the 1988 and 1992 Winter Olympics, before beginning work with USA Hockey.

"It's just so sad that he's not going to be able to fulfill his mission with that," said Motzko.

Days before his passing, Johannson experienced one of the highs in his career, telling his players that they will be wearing the red, white and blue in South Korea.

"One of Jim's greatest joys was calling those 20 plus athletes and telling them 'you're going to be an Olympian'," said Motzko.

Borgen plays college hockey at St. Cloud State and is in his junior season, he is also a draft pick by the Buffalo Sabres. He remembers when he answered Johannson's phone call telling him that he was heading to South Korea.

"I met Jim when I got the call like for World Juniors and stuff two years ago. I made a small relationship with there over there in Finland and got to know him and he also gave me this opportunity for the Olympic team," said Borgen.

After five consecutive Winter Olympic appearances, there are no current NHL players on this year's roster for any team. This was due to the NHL not granting their players to have a two week leave during the season to go play in South Korea. This gives local athletes like Borgen, a chance on the biggest stage in sports.

"I didn't think I was going to make it. I got the call, then I talked to Jim Johannson. I was shocked completely, but I was obviously very excited," said Borgen.

"That's one of the things that's going to make this Olympics special. You've got a group of people that never thought they would have the ability to play on our Olympic team, and they got a phone call," said Motzko.

With the opening to the Olympics starting Friday, Team USA looks to continue the miracle from 38 years ago, winning it all as the underdog. This time honoring both Herb Brooks and Jim Johannson.

"A lot of guys knew Jim that were older, like a lot more that played with USA Hockey, so yeah I think we all want to win it for him," said Borgen.

"Boy, his legacy is going to live a long time in our country and in USA hockey," said Motzko.

The Americans take the ice for the first time in South Korea on Wednesday, Feb. 14 against Slovenia in the preliminary round.

Team USA is also well represented on the women's team. Eight players on the roster have Minnesota connections, with seven of them being Minnesota natives.

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