Meet Edina's Hometown Heroes

Edina is made up of people who pride themselves with making the city a great place for living, learning, raising families and doing business.

Bob O'Connor

January 2014 -- Colorado-based USA Hockey Inc., the sport’s national governing body, is proud to house the Bob O'Connor International Resource Center. The O’Connor Library, as it’s commonly called, is the largest repository of hockey coaching resources anywhere in the world. The name is an impressive but fitting tribute to one of Edina’s own Hometown Heroes.

Bob O’Connor’s lifelong passion for coaching grew from a simple love of the game. “Growing up in Rhode Island, I spent a lot of time on the ice. I was an all-state player in school, and on the team when I went off to Providence College.” After graduation, a budding sales career brought O’Connor to Edina, where a strong hockey tradition made him feel right at home. “I joined up with a traveling amateurs league right away,” he recalled.

The pastime gave him an opportunity to see famed Edina hockey coaches Willard Ikola and Bart Larson in action. “I would stay after practice and just watch these guys and the high school teams… You could almost say I relearned the game from watching the coaches’ coaching styles and methods.”

After a time, “Bart Larson came to me, told me that a key assistant coach was retiring, and asked if I’d be interested in an associate coach position at Edina West. I said: ‘It would be a dream!’”

O’Connor began by drilling the junior varsity team according to a regimen strictly outlined by Larson. It didn’t take long, though, for him to begin developing a coaching mindset all his own. “I’m sure some out there say that coaching is all the same … but it’s the difference between winning and losing. You see it in a team’s offense, in defense, and when they’re playing one or two men short.”

In learning to teach, O’Connor drew from a host of role models – not all of them local. “I’m a collector. 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.”

He eventually gained a reputation for this unique hobby, to the point where friends and colleagues would gift him coaching-related materials they picked up while playing hockey as far afield as central Europe, Russia, and Scandinavia.

O’Connor’s long career in hockey management culminated in a decade as the national head of USA Hockey Inc. Some time later, when the organization began exploring the possibility of adding a coaching library to its Colorado Springs headquarters, O’Connor was, of course, top of mind. 

“I gladly donated money and materials to the effort, and they named it after me,” O’Connor said. “But I didn’t give away everything, and [I also had] those duplicates,” he added.

Closer to home, that allowed O’Connor to share his patronage with the one facility that has done more than any other to shape his own coaching career: Braemar Arena. “I donated Braemar’s first coaching library … Unfortunately, this was in the corner of a conference room. It was not all that visible, known about, or used.”

Recently, Braemar received a generous grant from the USA Hockey Foundation (the charitable arm of USA Hockey Inc.) to expand and relocate the library into a foyer space better suited to the purpose. O’Connor, true to form, was more than happy to support the move with another dip into his own voluminous collection. “This year, I gave Braemar crates and crates … another 200, maybe 300 books.”

In the end balance, “Braemar Area [doesn’t have the most] extensive coaching collection out there, but it could just be the largest you’ll find at a community rink,” O’Connor said. “Edina’s love of hockey is really something special, so this is very fitting.”

9 of 64  Heroes

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