Jack Blatherwick, who worked closely with Herb Brooks on the 1980 Miracle on Ice U.S. Olympic hockey team and was a longtime Minnesota high school coach, was named recipient of the 2019 Lester Patrick Award for outstanding service to hockey in the United States, the NHL announced Friday.
Blatherwick, 77, a sports physiologist who is considered one of hockey’s most innovative thinkers, will be honored on Dec. 12 in Washington, D.C., during the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction celebration.
“I went online to look at the list of people who previously got it, and to be part of that list is unbelievable,” Blatherwick said. “It’s not difficult to feel humbled when you get to be part of that list.”
The award, one of the most prestigious in hockey, honors the memory of Lester Patrick, who spent 50 years in the sport as a player, coach and general manager. Among others with Minnesota ties to win the award were Brooks, Neal Broten, Walter Bush, Paul Holmgren, Phil Housley, Jim Johansson, Reed Larson, John Mariucci, John Mayasich, Bob Naegele, Lou Nanne, Jeff Sauer and Glen Sonmor.
Blatherwick helped Brooks train the gold medal-winning 1980 U.S. Olympic team, which upset the mighty Soviet Union in Lake Placid, N.Y.
“I wanted to convince [Brooks] about interval training, which is really common in track and swimming,” Blatherwick said. “The idea is that every drill that is done is done at a faster-than-comfortable pace so that your comfort level is elevated. In that year, it was hopefully elevated to the level of the Russians because that’s the way they practice.”
He also worked with three NHL teams and five other U.S. Olympic teams, including the gold medal-winning 2018 women’s squad.
Blatherwick worked as head coach at Breck for 11 years and later at Wayzata, Hopkins and Minnehaha Academy, along with collegiate stops at Minnesota and Hamline. He retired in 2012 after eight seasons as an assistant at Benilde-St. Margaret’s.
“Working with the average player who’s trying to get somewhere — to college, Olympic teams or whatever — has been the highlight of my life,” Blatherwick said.