Miracle? Not quite, but still fun

Published 6:44 pm Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I used to be a huge fan of ice hockey. Back when Atlanta still had an NHL team, I probably went to at least one game a season, and tried to watch the rest on TV. However, when the Thrashers flew north to Winnipeg, Manitoba, I angrily vowed that I wouldn’t give the NHL anymore of my time.

Well, I broke that vow Saturday morning when a team of American NHL All-Stars took on the Russian national team in the Sochi Olympics. It only took me a few minutes of watching to realize that I definitely miss watching this exciting sport.

I wish I could have lived through the “Miracle on Ice” in 1980, when a group of U.S. college players and amateurs upset the pseudo-professional U.S.S.R. national team in one of the largest upsets in sports history. I have seen the Disney movie, Miracle, several times, and can only imagine how fun it would have been to see live.

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As an aside, there’s something that amuses me about that 1980 game. Apparently it was broadcast on tape-delay on ABC, and all of the major networks agreed to keep the final score off news shows until the game was shown on TV. In today’s world of Twitter and texting, I don’t think they’d be able to get away with that now.

Certainly, Saturday’s 3-2 shootout victory over Russia was no “Miracle on Ice II.” This American team was filled with professional hockey players, and many pundits had them slightly favored before the game began. Also, unlike in 1980, this game is only for seeding purposes and doesn’t ultimately have any bearing on who will win the gold medal. In fact, it’s very possible that the U.S. and Russia could meet for a rematch in the medal round.

Even so, I can’t help but think that our nation showed quite a lot of pride after Saturday’s win. In a world where politics, race, religion and other topics often tear us apart, it’s nice to have something nearly-universal as sports to bring us together. It came as no surprise to me that “T.J. Oshie” (the player who scored the game-winning goal in the shootout) and “U.S. hockey” quickly became common Internet searches.

Certainly there are still some who hate sports, but hopefully they still at least cheered “USA, USA, USA!”

Back when I was a bigger hockey fan, I loved to tell anyone who would listen to just give the sport a chance. I realize it will never be quite as popular as football, baseball, or basketball, but I definitely think it’s something most Americans would like if they just tried it. Games like Saturday might have earned the sport a few more fans.

Here’s hoping that the U.S.’s next games in the Olympic tournament are just as exciting!