Our Greatest Hockey Game

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The story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team is well known, both because of the 2004 movie Miracle and because if you were alive on February 22, 1980 you remember what happened, where you were and who was with you. It was one of those defining moments, like Pearl Harbor, the space shuttle Challenger disaster and 9/11. This, though, wasn’t a tragedy. And it wasn’t about a hockey game.

Coming into the Olympics the Soviet team had won 27 of its last 28 games. They had beaten the U.S. Olympic hockey team in an exhibition game just 3 days before the Olympics began by the bone crushing score of 10 – 3. They were simply the best.

And then the Olympics began in Lake Placid, NY and a bunch of American kids beat the greatest hockey team the world had ever seen. The pandemonium, euphoria and tears went on and on and even now those who remember find tears in their eyes and a lump in their throats just remembering.

That most unlikely of sporting event outcomes happened at a time that was particularly dark for Americans. Fifty-two of our countrymen were being held hostage in Iran. The Soviets had invaded Afghanistan and we were powerless to do anything about it. And we were doing an automotive conga line into gas stations to purchase 5 gallons when we could get it at all. We were a dispirited people.

And so it is today. We are feeling dispirited, distrusting and we are doubting ourselves. Our mistakes are gnawing at us and self-serving cynics with big egos and even bigger mouths are firing poison darts into our hearts every day. So many of us have simply dropped out in order to stop the pain and are hunkered down, now just going through the motions to sustain ourselves. How in the world will we get this train wreck back on track?

Wayne Coffey in his book The Boys of Winter offers his clarity about what those days in February, 1980 were really about. He writes,

“You watched them play and you were struck by the power of a simple, single thought: Hey, we really can still do it. In a time of malaise, they brought spunk and spirit.”

“It was to believe again in the nation’s capacity for greatness.”

”  .  .  .  you  came away feeling that greatness wasn’t a realm strictly for the superhuman, remote and unattainable, but rather something much closer, real and reachable, something within every one of us.”

Herb Brooks, the head coach of that team, has died and the team members have gone on with their lives, so they won’t come to rescue us from our funk. But, truly, we don’t need an Olympic hockey game because our ”  .  .  . capacity for greatness  .  .  .  is real and reachable, something within every one of us.”

The dream – the miracle – is alive if you say it is. Our greatest hockey game is still ahead of us.


Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA

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3 Responses to Our Greatest Hockey Game
  1. Don Zwiers Reply

    This is what winners are made of. When the team each does their own part; but in conjunction with everyone else; there are no holes. This is what our Nation has to do. We need to find that one thing we can all do to make our country strong again. I think we have sunk as low as we can and we have nobody to blame except ourselves.

    We are constantly asking our government to do something and everything they do; we are divided as to what they did. Let’s face it; ”We the People”, no longer know what our job is. Abraham Lincoln told us we are a Government of the People, by the People and for the People.

    Today we are dividing ourselves even more than a young Senator from Illinois, Barac Obama, told us in his Key Note Speech during the 2004 Democratic Convention. He talked about Red States and Blue States …….., We will become strong again when we start talking about our Nation, as one.
    We need him to give that same speech again and then Ask Congress “WHY NOT?”

    Why can’t we have a simple tax system where everyone alive pays their fair share of the government cost and then we all share the benefits that government provides, equally? There is no race, or sexual differences. Everyone can have the religion they choose and not be bothered, just because a family member chose another religion or none at all. Everyone should have the opportunity to have the same quality education and a job they choose to earn their living and pay their fair share of the taxes. Everyone in America needs the healthcare they need when they need it and pays their fair share. When a person reaches the age of 55, they can retire with the same government pension to enjoy the rest of their life without the worry they won’t have enough money; but also have the opportunity to earn additional money to do more things.

    We want as the only revenue governments can have is “An adjustable CONSUMPTION SALES TAX on all products and services having people’s labor as part of the price?” This means each time we spend our money in America; we pay all our local, county, state and Federal taxes and share equally, all the benefits, these taxes provide.

    Yes everyone can make as much money they can and only pay the tax when they spend it. Businesses do the same. Why would they want to leave America? Think what the rest of the world will do!
    Can we be a team again like our 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team with our coach, President Barack Obama.

  2. Jim Altschuler Reply

    Nepotism aside, Darned well said!

  3. Joni Lindgren Reply

    Yes, the “courage for greatness” is within us all….that’s why we keep fighting, isn’t it?

    Good blog, Jack!

    Brought back memories of that night when we all watched those boys. Herb was a tough coach
    and the boys went onto the ice and kept fighting hard for goals. What I really recall is at the end…how those boys looked around for their parents in the stands. How they skated around, which seemed to last at least 30 minutes with U.S. flags over their shoulders. They made us proud!!

    Keep up the fight…and I will too! We need more “goals” in the midst of too many crisises!

    Joni :o)