Has it been 35 years since the NCAA All-Stars USA Olympic Hockey Team defeated the Dzherzhinski Square Bullies to set up a gold-medal game with Finland two days later?

I can remember what I was doing when I heard the news ... listening to Detroit's classical radio station, WQRS-FM, which would be the least likely place to hear about the results before the tape delay came on broadcast television.  That's how we did things in those days ... no cable channels, no internet, no streaming video.  But WQRS would announce news of great import between selections.  After the final resolution to the tonic, mind you, none of this playing a movement here and there.  The outcome of the hockey game was news of sufficient import that they mentioned it.  (I watched anyway.)

The only other WQRS news flash I recall was on 28 January, 1986, when Challenger exploded.  Again, no live coverage, only people who had subscriptions to something called Cable News Network got to see that in real time.

It is of the aftermath of the hockey game, though, that I wish to speak.  I recently watched an ESPN 30 for 30 episode, "Of Miracles and Men," telling the story of the creation of Soviet hockey (give pioneer coach Anatoli Tarasov props for borrowing training and play ideas from the ballet and chess) and the program's evolution to Olympic and "amateur" hockey powerhouse (apart from that hiccup in 1980.)

One of the Soviet players, still living in Russia, suggested that U.S. hockey fans made too much of that one win; he used a comparison to a schoolboy who once "kissed Sophia Loren."  That is, Team Soviet went on to all manner of other conquests ... U.S. Olympic teams, not so much.

Yes, but ...  one of the leading figures in "Miracles and Men" is Slava Fetisov, an emerging star in 1980 who subsequently attracted the attention of the New Jersey Devils.  And Team Soviet -- more precisely, the Central Army Sports Club -- was the one part of the Evil Empire's military that worked as designed, although any insufficiently grateful player faced the balance of his military commitment counting trees, something that no less than the Minister of Defense threatened Lieutenant Fetisov with in response to his request to sign with the Devils.

We do know, though, how history went.  First the Miracle, then the election of Ronald Reagan, then the Evil Empire speech, and glasnost and perestroika.  And representatives of the National Hockey League strode into the Kremlin and obtained terms of surrender from the Ministry of Defense.

Give Mr Fetisov props, though: after his Detroit Red Wings won a Stanley Cup, with several Russian expatriates, he and the league arranged to bring the Cup to Moscow.

Meanwhile, now that the Olympics allow professional hockey players on teams, the gold medal has been Canadian.


Dave Tufte said...

If you could get Detroit radio, why weren't you watching the game on Canadian television (which carried it live)? That's what we did in Buffalo.

Dave Tufte said...

I watched this documentary last week. It's very good throughout.

Dave Tufte said...

One thing that did bug me about the 30 for 30 documentary, is that it focused on what happened when the Soviets played NHL All-Stars rather than individual teams.

The problem, of course, was that NHL All-Stars would not have had much teamwork.

So I hit the internet and looked around because I knew the Buffalo Sabres had beaten one of those Soviet teams quite badly. In the mid-70's, the Sabres were the fast-moving, high-scoring team. So they played the Soviets at their own game, unlike the Flyers (who beat the Sabres in the 1975 Stanley Cup final).

Here's the amazing thing: the Sabres vs. the "Soviet Wings" game from 1976 is available on YouTube. What a game: the Sabres won 12-6 as both teams played a wide open, high scoring style.

Here's the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_nMPXasFhY Sabres vs Soviet Wings 1976.

The format for the series that year was that the best Soviet team played the best NHL team, and the second best played the second best. Both the Flyers and the Sabres won.

Last comment on this post ... I promise.

Stephen Karlson said...

I may have missed the memo that the CBC in Windsor had the game live. Thanks for the link to that 1976 game. The documentary's explanation of Tarasov preparing the player with the puck to expect the movement of the other players without the puck was most instructive.