Monday, February 22, 2010
The Unforeseen Surprise On Ice
The above line was a joke I threw at a couple people last night, because while the media wants to believe U.S. Hockey's 5-3 win over Team Canada last night was a 2nd Miracle on Ice, it wasn't.
- Olympic Hockey did not allow professional players to compete until the 1990's, and the team that U.S. Hockey fielded in 1980 was a group of amateurs, mostly college players.
- However, the Soviets, much like communist Cuba does today with their baseball team, did not formally allow players to emigrate to America to play pro sports. Thus the Soviet team was comprised of players good enough to play professionally and it showed: They had won 8 of the last 9 Olympic gold medals and hadn't lost a single game in 12 years to that point. Part of the reason the Soviets didn't allow emigration was to get a leg up in Olympic sports: They were, in terms of talent, head and shoulders above everyone else in the World.
Thus the Americans in that game were huge underdogs, akin in some way to, say, UNLV's basketball team playing the L.A. Lakers with both teams at full strength in a 48 minute game. For them to win that game in 1980 was indeed a miracle. It was a group of college kids basically beating a pro team.
That is not to say last night's U.S. win wasn't an upset and shouldn't be enjoyed. They were definitely underdogs in that game, and goalie Ryan Miller had to stop 42 shots, meaning his defense was getting outplayed and he had to rise above. But both teams in last night's match consisted of NHL players. Ryan Miller wasn't facing a squad that played at a level over his head. He was playing against a caliber of competition he sees several times a week, against star players he sees several times a year.
Last night's game was a fine upset, but it wasn't a Miracle on Ice. This, which happened 30 years ago today, was a Miracle on Ice: