Monday, February 22, 2010

Miracle? Not Really

I'm reading headlines like "Miracle on Ice II" in the wake of the US Olympic hockey team's 5-3 victory over Canada.

Please. Everyone needs to take a deep breath, and maybe look at the history books.

The 1980 "Miracle on Ice" was a matchup between a bunch of American amateur and collegiate players and the powerful and experienced (and professional) Soviet national team. The Soviet roster included legendary players like Tretiak, Mikhailov, Kharlamov, Fetisov, and Makarov. The Americans? Well, only true puckheads knew any of those guys before that memorable day in Lake Placid. It was a truly epic victory, and to compare what happened in Vancouver with the Lake Placid shocker is absurd.

This 2010 game was certainly much-anticipated. And that fact alone tells you why the American victory wasn't exactly an epic shocker. Would people be paying thousands of dollars for tickets to watch a wipeout? Of course not.

Is the Canadian team better on paper? Well, of course. Crosby, Iginla, Thornton, Nash, Pronger, Boyle, Marleau, Heatley...the list goes on. The cream of the NHL crop. But the US roster is, unlike that 1980 group, all-pro as well.

That's the indisputable difference between 1980 and 2010. Then: our amateurs (real amateurs) against their "amateurs" (actually, full-time hockey players). Now: our NHL players against their NHL players.

Call it an upset. Shout "U-S-A, U-S-A" if you must. But please, don't call it a miracle. Not even close.


Peter said...

I always thought Lake Placid was really the 2nd miracle. At the 1960 Games at Squaw Valley, the US Team beat the USSR in the semi-finals, before going onto beat Czechoslovakia for the Gold Medal. The score of the US-USSR games was left on the scoreboard for years, until Blyth arena was torn down for a parking lot.

Anonymous said...

Well put...
USSR actually beat NHL teams in exhibition preluding the Olympics. USSR was indeed Goliath and USA - David.
But, USA has not beat Canada in 50 years! This is worth talking about, and historic in it's own right.

Stan Bunger said...

Peter's point is well-taken. The 1960 victory was huge. But it came in an era before the massive media attention to the Olympics (quick, who was the "Al Michaels" of the 1960 game?), and, arguably, before the Soviet sports machine was really in high gear.

I still miss Blythe Arena!