The 1980 U.S Olympic hockey team still pulled off the greatest upset in the history of international competition.
Some 30 years to the day a bunch of 20-something college kids from small American towns shocked the world and beat a veteran Russian team at the Lake Placid Games, the U.S. beat heavily favored Canada 5-3 Sunday night in the in the Vancouver Games.
However, it was no "miracle." Not even a minor one.
While the Canadians featured an NHL all-star team with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Rick Nash, Martin Brodeur, Jarome Iginla, and Chris Pronger, the Americans, although young, were accomplished players in their own right.
The 1980 team had virtually no professional or international Olympic experience heading into the winter event.
They were relatively unknowns compared to their Russian counterparts who whipped the best the NHL had to offer in exhibition games earlier that year. The Soviets also won five of the previous six Olympics. For the untested Americans to best Russia could not have been imagined at that time.
The 2010 team had a roster of first-round draft picks, a few all-stars, and Stanley Cup winners. These are professional hockey players, not amateurs. These men are accustomed to playing with and against the best competition in the world on a regular basis.
Chris Drury, who scored on a rebound against Canada, is participating in his third Winter Olympics and has won a Stanley Cup as a member of the Colorado Avalanche in 2001. Brian Rafalski, who leads the United States in goals in the tournament, has played in the last two Stanley Cup Finals with the Detroit Red Wings.
Jamie Langenbrunner, captain of the Americans, has won championships with the Dallas Stars and New Jersey Devils. The youngest member of the American squad, Patrick Kane, 21, won the Calder Memorial Trophy as NHL's Rookie of the Year, and played in the 2009 NHL All-Star Game. Goaltender Ryan Miller posted a .931 save percentage and recorded five shutouts for the Buffalo Sabers this season.
Mike Eruzione, Mark Johnson, and Jim Craig were still learning how to play hockey to some degree. They were still honing their craft. The current players are far more advanced in both knowledge and skill compared to the players who suited up 30 years ago.
I know the U.S. had not beaten Canada in the Olympics since 1960, but to even compare the game to Russia-USA three decades ago does a disservice to the word miracle.
The Soviet and American teams were natural rivals due to the decades old Cold War. In addition, then President Jimmy Carter was at the time considering a U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics, to be held in Moscow, in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Democracy vs. Soviet Republic beliefs was the order of the day when the two countries squared off on the ice.
There has never been a Cold War or major political unrest between Canada and the United States. That backdrop just did not exist in Vancouver.
Sunday's contest was a compelling and entertaining spectacle. That's all. Not a miracle. Not even close.
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