Friday, February 22, 2008
For my money, the Miracle on Ice is the greatest sporting event to ever happen. By now we've all heard the story, and most of us have seen the movie Miracle, based off the team in which a maverick coach from Minnesota named Herb Brooks picked who he felt was the best team, but not necessarily the best players, and molded them into a gold medal winner.
The Soviets featured such players as Boris Mikhailov, one of the greatest Russian players ever, and Vadislav Tretiak, the best goaltender in the world at the time.
The United States meanwhile, were led by a group of college kids. Some of them were very good, as they would sign with professional teams soon after the 1980 Olympics, but definitely not on par with the Soviets talent wise.
I won't bore you with the details, but we all know Mike Eruzione, the United States captain, scored the game winning goal with exactly 10 minutes left in the game to give the US the win and set the stage for Al Michaels's famous call, and an eventual gold medal, which they earned by defeating Finland.
13 US players played in the NHL. Neal Broten, who won an NCAA title with Minnesota, scored 923 career points in over 1000 NHL games. Mark Johnson is now the women's hockey coach at Wisconsin, and his son plays for the mens team. Eruzione and goalie Jim Craig, two of the stars of the semifinal game, totaled just 30 NHL games between them, all by Craig. Coach Herb Brooks tragically died in a car accident at the age of 66.
Let me preface this next point by saying that I think an Olympic Gold Medal is the best "trophy" to win in sports. If you gave me a choice between a gold medal and a superbowl, I would take a gold medal without hesitation. I usually come down somewhere between disapproving and apathetic when ESPN does dumb stuff like Who's Now, but if the Miracle on Ice doesn't win the Greatest Highlight, people need to hand in their citizenship. While I get tired of the 1972 Dolphins, I will never tire of hearing about the 1980 Olympic team that shocked the world and united a nation.