ANAHEIM, CALIF. - The Anaheim Ducks were going through a quick, game-day skate Wednesday morning at the Honda Center. Bob Mason, the Wild goalie coach, sat in the stands to watch for a few minutes.
He looked glum. Mason had found out a few hours earlier that Warren Strelow, his mentor as an NHL goalie and also as a coach, had died in Worcester, Mass.
Strelow, 73, had been dealing with health issues linked to diabetes for years. He suffered a stroke Feb. 28 when he was on the ice in Worcester, working with Sharks minor leaguers. He remained hospitalized in Worcester until his death.
"He was my goalie coach for four years in Washington," Mason said. "He had this image of being a gruff guy but, with his goalies, he was always positive."
No one promoted Strelow as a goaltending guru more than Herb Brooks. They went back to St. Paul's East Side. Strelow, an outstanding goalie and baseball catcher, was four years ahead of Brooks at Johnson High School.
Later, Strelow taught history and coached hockey and baseball at Mahtomedi High. He also served as the goalie coach when Brooks coached the Gophers in the '70s.
Brooks took him along on the Olympic adventure in 1979-80 that led to the "Miracle on Ice." Twenty years later, Brooks coached the U.S. Olympic team again and Strelow was his goalie coach.
"We were having dinner the night before the gold medal game," said Dan Brooks, Herb's son. "Dad was in the village with the team. Warren said he gave my dad one last message: 'Herbie, I'm 12-0-1 in the Olympics. Don't screw this one up.' "
The United States lost the goal medal game to Canada.
The Washington Capitals made Strelow the NHL's first full-time goalie coach in 1983. Later, he spent three years with New Jersey, working with a young Martin Brodeur, and then was the goalie coach for the Sharks organization for the past decade.
Randy Carlyle, the Anaheim coach, spent a brief time with Strelow a few years ago. Carlyle was coaching at Winnipeg in the AHL, and the Sharks had goalie Johan Hedberg playing there.
On Wednesday, Carlyle was told of Strelow's death and said: "Warren was a guy who loved the game. He had the respect of the players. Every player he dealt with seemed to have a special place in their heart for Warren."
This was reflected in the response of San Jose goalie Evgeni Nabokov, who was with the Sharks in Nashville to start a playoff series.
"We will miss him, but he will always be in my heart," Nabokov told reporters. "The one thing he always wanted was a Stanley Cup, so we've got to give it to him."