United States Men’s Hockey Team Goes for First Gold Medal since “Miracle on Ice” in 1980
Published: Friday, February 14, 2014
Updated: Monday, February 17, 2014 15:02
I remember watching Edgar Renteria hit a grounder back to Red Sox closer Keith Foulke as the Red Sox completed a sweep of the Cardinals en route to their first World Series victory since 1918, a drought that lasted for 86 long years.
I remember the seconds ticking away on Vancouver as the Bruins dominated the Canucks to the tune of 4-0 in Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals ending a championship drought of 39 years.
However, something I have not been alive to witness and something that I really want to see is the United States Men’s Olympic Hockey team win the gold medal. If the United States is able to win the gold this year in Sochi, it will mark the team’s first gold medal since 1980. In that year, a rag-tag team of college and amateur players defeated the undisputed best team in the world, the Soviet Union, in the semifinals before beating Finland for the gold. The Soviet Union had won nearly every world and Olympic championship since 1964 and the United States’ 4-3 victory is considered one of the biggest upsets in sports history. There’s a reason that the 2004 sports film based on the event is called Miracle. An interesting side note to their historic uspset is that Mike Eruzione, the captain of the team, has a brother named Vinnie Eruzione who was a punter on the Holy Cross football team.
Shortly after 1980, the United States decided to use NHL players in the Olympics, making the victory over the Soviet Union even more impressive for the group of college players that demonstrated heart, guts, and an emphasis on team, surpassing the desires of an individual, as they aimed for glory.
However, the 2010 Olympics almost featured an upset that rivaled the historic 1980 upset. The United States was in position for a gold medal in 2010 in Vancouver. After defeating Finland in the semifinal, the United States faced Canada for the gold medal. For any hockey fan who watched the gold medal game vs. Canada, it certainly seemed like the United States was in position to win that game.
Trailing 2-0, the United States dug deep against Canada, who had the best team on paper, and got on the board midway through the second period when Ryan Kesler scored on a deflection.
The game remained 2-1 until Zach Parise scored with 24.4 seconds left to send the game into overtime.
Hockey fans remember what happened next. After 7 minutes and 40 seconds passed, one of the best players in the world Sidney Crosby scored on Ryan Miller (who played phenomenally for the whole Olympics) to end the game and give Canada the gold.
Four years later, the United States finds itself in a similar position. They have a young team, Canada is the favorite to win the whole tournament, and the desire for the gold is still there.
The team that the US assembled this year has faced criticism from experts who say that the team should have added prolific scorer from the Ottawa Senators, Bobby Ryan. Ryan was one of the best players in 2010, but interestingly he was left off the roster this time around.
However, I hope that the US is channeling the coach of the 1980 team Herb Brooks here who did not look for the best players but the right ones.
Unfortunately, as a Bruins fan, the team does not have one player from Boston. Defenseman Torey Krug came very close to making it, but his relative inexperience caused the team to look in another direction. However, as a follower of the NHL, I can say the team still looks poised to make a run in Sochi this year. Although the team may not have all of the best US players on it, it does have some talented ones. Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, and Zach Parise are back to lead the team and players like James van Riemsdyk, Cam Fowler, and Derek Stepan are all looking to make an impact in their first Olympics.
One of the most interesting positional battles to watch is who is going to play in net. Even though Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard looks locked into the third spot, the decision between Jon Quick (a local Umass Amherst grad) and Ryan Miller will be difficult.