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)

all the president’s embarrassment

It’s not a White House tape that’s going to displace any of Richard Nixon’s recordings on the all-time register of executive audio infamy, but John F. Kennedy’s feelings about the failings of the 1963 U.S. national hockey team deserve a listen.

Thanks go to The Toronto Star’s reporter in Washington, Mitch Potter, who tweeted an alert this afternoon to the tape in question. It’s not new in its availability: recordings from the Kennedy White House have been public for some time. As they’ll tell you there, a Dictaphone taping system was set up in the Oval Office — “and possibly in the President’s bedroom” — in the fall of 1962 to track telephone conversations. Robert Kennedy ordered the system disconnected on the day the President died, November 22, 1963. The telephone recordings — 12 hours’ worth, preserved on “dictabelts,” were later sent to the National Archives in Washington and, in 1976, to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, where the process of declassifying them took place of the course of the following two decades.

It was a Wednesday in March, and the President had been browsing the papers. What he found in the sports pages soured his cereal enough that he put in an emergency call to David Hackett to talk about the fortunes of the U.S. hockey team taking part in the world championships in Sweden.

“Dave,” said the President.

“Yeah, how are you?” Hackett was an old friend, from prep school, of Bobby Kennedy’s, and he was serving now as executive director of the President’s Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime. More to the point on this particular morning: after soldiering as a paratrooper during World War II, he’d attended Montreal’s McGill University. He’d played hockey there, and was good enough to be chosen for the 1952 U.S. Olympic team. (He broke his ankle and missed the tournament in Oslo.) Continue reading