In 1980, the United States defeated the Soviet Union in a medal round game in Lake Placid, the proverbial “Miracle on Ice.” Thirty years later, in Canada, they pulled off a miracle, but it’s not the one that you’re thinking. Yes, last Sunday night, they defeated a heavily favored Canadian team, stocked with talents like Sidney Crosby, Martin Brodeur, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton, and Brendan Morrow. The team had smashed everyone in its way; outside of their 3-2 loss to the United States, the Canadians outscored their opponents 26-7. By most accounts, the U.S. shouldn’t have stood a chance. But then David went out there, in the form of Brian Rafalski, put the US on his shoulders, and slayed Goliath.
Sure, this was a “meaningless” early Round Robin game, but these Canadians were destined for a gold medal, right? Someone wrote before the Games that the Canadians could go 0-for-Games in medals, but as long as they win the hockey gold, it’s all good. Unfortunately, for the team with these expectations, if they win everything but hockey, the counter equation is good (it’s all bad.) Even the women seem destined to wrestle for that gold medal, as the Canadians will battle tonight with, you guessed it, the U.S. for the women’s gold. It’s not getting as much press, because the women are not scrappy underdogs, but that should still be worth watching.
But hockey fans know who these undermanned members of the U.S. team are. Or at least I would expect them to in the last certain pro hockey-filled team from the U.S. considering that the glorious NHL system may not allow for their participation in 2014. For now though, these professionals are underdog opponents to the “best” team in the world. The team is of course led by their coach Ron Wilson and his 1173-552 record, playing experience, and notably, dual citizenship. Dual citizenship? Of course, to make this an even more intriguing story, the US men are coached by a man with citizenship in both the US and Canada, while the women are coached by Lake Placid hero Mark Johnson.
Level after level, this is one you couldn’t script, even if the talking heads wanted to find Alexander Ovechkin’s Russians against Crosby’s Canadians in the final. Too bad the road to gold found the Canadians blowing by Ovechkin yesterday. And then there are the pesky Americans who couldn’t find the goal but found pleasure in trashing Turin who aren’t the same players but represent a country that much of the rest of the world finds annoying. From a country where hockey falls in line after football, baseball, basketball, and maybe even golf, a surprising contender takes the stage.
Again, the gold medal game may be decided by another David versus Goliath struggle, and if it is a rematch, you can bet that Goliath is ticked! But the truth is, there are sports and then there are events, and even though we don’t have the aggressive antagonism with Canada that we did with Russia thirty years ago, this would be an event. I can’t help myself; it seems brilliant and unescapable. Unlike yesterday when I waited for updates on the U.S. score emailed to me during a meeting, I’ll be glued to the television tomorrow watching the U.S. Men play Finland, and I’ll probably watch the women against Canada tonight. That’s the greatest miracle of all this Olympics.
I actually care about hockey.