“I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.” We’ve probably all heard that old saying but it may just be more truth than fiction. From what I can see, the kids, and often adults, who play the game are just plain tough!
We’ve just finished up with yet another amazing Winter Olympics. It was back in Russia again this year. The Canadians won the gold again in Men’s Hockey. It is usually either the Russians or the Canadians. The Canadians are our friends but there seems to be a fierce competition between the United States and Russia when it comes to most things but none more obvious than Hockey.
The year was 1980. The place was Lake Placid, New York. The Soviets had won the Gold for the last four Winter Olympics. But… in 1960 the United States team took the Gold for the first time ever, and Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell) was left sitting on the sidelines watching. Having trained with the 1960 team for months, he was the last one cut from the roster. His dream of winning never faltered, so when asked to coach the team he was ready. He truly believed he could coach this scraggly bunch of college boys to victory. With no Gold Medal since 1960, no one else believed in his dream.
The first hurdle was picking the team. When questioned about his choices, he said that he wasn’t looking for the best players, he was looking for the right players. In the midst of his year-long training, he was told over and over again that he was working the boys too hard. Many held grudges against their fellow players for tactics in past games. Many were young and didn’t quite want to work that hard. Many just didn’t believe it could be done. It was his almost impossible task to mold them into a winning team.
Miracle is a David and Goliath story in a time when it was badly needed. The Cold War was a cold fact. The world was hurting. The USSR had invaded Afghanistan just a few months before. The Communist way of life threatened the very fabric of the lives of freedom-loving people around the world. Evil was alive and well and rearing its ugly head. This win was more than just a Gold Medal; it was symbolic of victory over our enemy, without a fire being shot.
I loved the poignancy of the wall in the locker room covered in telegrams from well-wishing Americans…even the one that said, “Beat those Commie Bastards”. Like I said before, in 1980, this was more than a hockey game for many. The average age of players on our team was 21. Most of the well-seasoned USSR team had been playing together for 15 years, but as Coach Brooks said, “Great moments are born from great opportunity.”
Throughout their training, Coach Brooks would occasionally ask a player, “Who do you play for?” They would say the name of their school. When he finally asked the question to one young player and heard the reply, “The United States of America.” He knew he had his team. They learned that the name on the front of the jersey was more important than the name on the back. Coach Brooks gave them not just a chance to dream, but to believe.
Miracle is a great family movie. You can watch it with your kids, your grandkids or alone. Alone might be best, that way you won’t be embarrassed when you jump out of your seat, pump your fist in the air and yell “GO USA.”
As usual, you can email me at Carolyn@rockcliff.com