how to win the olympics: scowl at the soviets

olympics 1

The United States won Olympic gold for the first time in 1960 at Squaw Valley and when someone writes a book about that, modern-day American teams can study it for guidance. In the meantime, American blueprints for Olympic victory will have to make do with the many volumes commemorating that other golden campaign, in 1980, which include Miracle On Ice: Victory For America! and One Goal (the victory that united a nation in an explosion of joy and pride) to Going For The Gold and The Boys of Winter. The latter, by Wayne Coffey, is the best of these chronicles, if not not the one we’re talking about here today in our review of Olympic-hockey how-to books. What does Joe Dunn’s Miracle On Ice (2008) have that the rest of those others don’t? More pictures, fewer words, a whole bunch of very angry and obviously steroid-ridden Russians, and the quickest guide to getting hold of the gold.  

It’s tough times in the 1970s for America. The energy crisis, inflation, Iranians taking hostage. The world is in turmoil.

Forget all that. Focus on the Olympics. Can anybody beat the Soviet Union? They’ve won five out of the last six gold medals. Their players are wily and old and, also, young and quick. They have square heads, and scowls on their faces.

Hire Herb Brooks. Convene a number of tryout camps. Test your players mentally as well as physically. Pick a team. Condition them. Train them to work hard and be fast.

miracleCall them lazy. Suggest your mother can skate better than them.

Play a gruelling exhibition schedule. Lose your last game to the Soviets by a score of 10-3.

Go to Lake Placid. Don’t worry about the Canadians — in fact, you know what? Don’t even mention them. Tie Sweden. Dominate the Czechs 7-3. Beat Norway, Romania, Germany.

Meet the still-scowling Soviets in the medal round. Scowl at them. Let them be aggressive in the first period, taking shot after shot. Have a goalie named Jim Craig be up to the task of stopping them all.

See Krutov finally score.

Don’t be discouraged. Tie the game. See Makarov score. Tie it up again, scowlingly.

Be shocked when the Soviet coach pulls Tretiak after the first period in favour of Myshkin. Wilt a bit, but don’t collapse. Eventually take a 4-3 lead. Hold on to it. Win.  Skate around with a flag for a cape while the crowd chants U!S!A! and U!S!A! Call it one of the greatest moments in sports history, a miracle, but don’t forget, you still have to beat Finland if you want to win the Olympics.

Beat Finland.

Miracle On Ice
by Joe Dunn, illustrated by Ben Dunn
(Edina: Magic Wagon, 2008)

spinners down below

It’s surprising that this wasn’t bigger news when it broke this week in Gare Joyce’s report in Sportsnet magazine about the painful demise of the Montreal Canadiens (“Dead Empire,” January 30). Apparently, when Joyce was in Chicoutimi in October, and stopped by at Cimetière Saint-François-Xavier to visit the grave of goaling great Georges Vézina, news of Scott Gomez and Pierre Gauthier and all the rest of those responsible for the Canadiens having fallen so heavily from the heights of grace and glory had already sunken in: Joyce was certain he heard the Cucumber slowly spinning down below.

Which raises a couple of questions. One: are things so very bad that all dead Canadiens are twirling or is it only a select few of the team’s greats? Also, two, is Vézina on a continuous spin cycle or does he only get going when (a) things seem particularly bad at the Bell Centre and/or (b) when the still-living stop by for a visit?

It’s not the first time for Vézina, apparently. A quick look back reveals that The Toronto Star was pretty certain he was rotating in 1991 when the Canadiens lost 6-4 to the Buffalo Sabres in the playoffs in, quote, another game of bad pond hockey.

Other famous hockey men not at peace in their resting places:

• Legendary Detroit manager Jack Adams was assumed to be awhirl in his casket at the White Chapel Memorial Park Cemetery in Troy, Michigan, when the 1977 Red Wings only took 11 shots on goal during a home game at the Olympia.

• Major Conn Smythe (said The Toronto Star’s Damien Cox in 2003) was apparently on a regular rotisserie at the Park Lawn Cemetery in Etobicoke, Ontario, on account of the pedigree of several recent Toronto Maple Leafs general managers, including Mike Smith (American-born) and John Ferguson, Jr. (American college boy).

• The absence of 50-goal scorers in the NHL in 2004 may not have been enough to spin Rocket Richard in his Montreal grave (Notre-Dame-des-Neiges), but (said Jim Kelley at he was definitely up on one elbow.

• The performance of the U.S. Olympic team at the 2006 Winter Games was generally supposed to have had 1980 Miracle-on-Ice coach Herb Brooks spinning at the Roselawn Cemetery in Roseville, Minnesota.

• And finally, from Mordecai Richler, in Barney’s Version (1997):

The fumblebum Canadiens, no longer glorieux,
had disgraced themselves again, losing 5-1 to —
wait for it — The Mighty Ducks of California.
Toe Blake must be spinning in his grave.

Which is, of course, in Montreal’s Mount Royal Cemetery.