The Wall Street Journal pays tribute to Herb Brooks’s supreme moment in an editorial headlined “Cold War Miracle on Ice”:
“When the histories of the Cold War are written, we hope scholars don’t forget to mention hockey, right up there with Star Wars and Stinger missiles in Afghanistan. In particular, that means remembering Herb Brooks, who died this week, as the man who coached the U.S. hockey team to an improbable win over the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics.
“The victory in Lake Placid in 1980 was an inspiring moment at a time when Americans needed it most. The game took place on February 22, two months after the Soviets’ Christmas Day invasion of Afghanistan and just three months after Americans had been taken hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. With the U.S. setbacks in those proxy states, Cold War victory seemed more probable for Moscow.
“In hockey, the Soviets were the reigning world power and the college players Mr. Brooks coached weren’t expected to have a chance against the older, more experienced Russian players, some of whom played for military teams. A week before the Games opened, the Soviets clobbered the home team 10-3 in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden. The Americans were ‘boys being sent on a man’s errand,’ a Canadian sports writer opined.
“And then the Yanks won, thanks to a fast-paced style of play developed by Mr. Brooks. Lake Placid and the rest of the country erupted in flag-waving, song-singing celebration. Jimmy Carter called with an invitation to the White House. The U.S. went on to defeat Finland for the gold medal.
“Politics has been the backdrop for some of the most thrilling moments in Olympic history, and 1980 wasn’t the first time that the competition between freedom and totalitarianism had been played out in the Games. In Berlin in 1936, Jesse Owens did something no European had been able to do: show up Hitler. In Melbourne in 1956, a month after Soviet tanks crushed the Hungarian uprising, the Hungarian team defeated the Russians in a bloody game of water polo.
“By the end of the 1980s, the Soviet empire had collapsed — an event, we now know, was foreshadowed in the early weeks of that decade by Mr. Brooks’s ‘Miracle on Ice.'”
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