It has long been said that knowledge is power. If that is so, Bob O’Connor is one of the most powerful and influential hockey coaches the United States has ever seen.
For those who don’t know O’Connor, he was originally from Rhode Island and played college hockey at Providence. After college, he moved to Edina, MN where he first started coaching under the watchful eyes of legendary coaches Willard Ikola and Bart Larson. O’Connor fell in love with coaching during his time at Edina, spent decades ascending the coaching ranks and eventually held the position of Coach-in-Chief for USA Hockey.
Over time, O’Connor became known throughout the hockey world for his desire to learn from others and his habit of stockpiling hockey resources. He amassed an astounding collection of coaching materials throughout his career, including tips and drills from nearly every country including the longstanding hotbeds of Canada, Finland, Sweden, eastern Europe and Russia.
“I’ve collected crates of training materials, videos and books on hockey coaching… basically anything coaches put out there, and often two or three copies,” said O’Connor in an interview with the City of Edina.
Several years ago USA Hockey approached O’Connor with the idea of creating a library of coaching resources at their headquarters in Colorado Springs. O’Connor jumped on the opportunity, donating funds and a significant amount of his materials to the project. With his help, USA Hockey created the most renowned hockey coaching library in the world and named it the USA Hockey Bob O’Connor International Resource Center.
O’Connor wasn’t done though.
He also donated some of his materials to Braemar Arena, helping them design their first coaching library and likely the first of its kind in Minnesota.
“Originally, we had a small library in the Edina Hockey Association room,” said Susie Miller, General Manager of Braemar Arena. “Unfortunately, it was difficult for coaches to enter because the room was always locked.”
This year Braemar Arena received a grant from USA Hockey to revamp and expand their library. The first priority for the arena was to make it and its resources more accessible. After evaluating the options, they decided to convert the old skate sharpening room into the new library because it opens directly into the arena’s main lobby.
The library also received some other much needed upgrades including more space, new shelves, tables and chairs as well as the addition of a TV and DVD player, allowing coaches to utilize O’Connor’s vast collection of video. O’Connor did his part as well, contributing another 200-300 books to the library.
When all of the remodeling was done, Miller hosted an opening ceremony at Braemar Arena on April 25th, 2014. The small group of people in attendance included local leaders and influential coaches such as Ikola and current USA Hockey Coach-in-Chief Mike MacMillan.
“Bob O’Connor has contributed so much to the game, not only in Minnesota but across our country,” said MacMillan, who is also the Director of High Performance Programs for Minnesota Hockey. “The Coaching Education Program and all coaches and players impacted by his contributions owe a great debt of gratitude for the work and sacrifice he has made to improve our game. The resource centers that bear his name at USA Hockey and at Braemar Arena will serve as a trusted resource to all of us who follow in his footsteps.”
All coaches are now welcome to visit and spend timing learning from the knowledge it took O’Connor a lifetime to collect. The library is open daily in Braemar Arena from 9 am – 9 pm.