Column: ESPN captures Soviet loss

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By DAVID HUNTER, The Cannon Courier

Later this month will be the 35th anniversary of the greatest sporting moment in USA history. Of course, it is the Miracle on Ice back during the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, NY. The ESPN 30 for 30 series debut a new film last week, Of Miracles and Men, looking back at the hockey game this time from the Soviet Union point of view.

The documentary done by director, Jonathan Hock, took a new look at this event, but he did a great job of telling us about the Soviet Union players who also played an important role in not only this game but the sport of hockey itself. It all started back after World War II when the relationship between the two countries soured when the Soviet Union continued its communism viewpoint, and the Cold War began.

People in the USSR played a form of ice hockey called bandy, which instead of a puck they used a ball and 11 players were on a side. However, the sport was not in the Olympics, but the Canadian version of ice hockey was. The Soviet Union wanted to dominate, while spreading its communist message to the rest of the world during international competitions. So they hired a man, Anatoli Tarasov, who at first did not know anything about the sport, but he later changed how it was played.

His players loved playing for him, even though his practices were tough but unique. He believed unlike the Canadians, hockey is best played as a team not as individuals. Under his watch during the 1960s and 1970s, the Russians won nine consecutive world championships and three Olympic gold medals. However, his ultimate dream was to play the professionals in Canada, and they got the chance in 1972 with the Summit Series. In the meantime, Tarasov was removed as coach before the event, and the Soviet Union lost the Summit Series, because of the physical, rough play of the Canadians.

Fast forward to 1980, the Soviet Union was under new management with Viktor Tikhonov, and they were the overwhelming favorites to win gold in Lake Placid. The USSR were coming off dominating victories over a NHL All-Star team, which had 20 future Hall-of-Famers, and a USA Olympic team a couple weeks before the Winter Olympics at Madison Square Garden.

During the movie, one of the stars of the USSR Slava Fetisov brought his 21-year old daughter Anastasia back to Lake Placid for the first time since the game, 35 years ago. He took her to the current prison, which was the Athlete Village during the Olympics, and the arena that the game took place, which remained mostly unchanged from back then. He even took her to the same locker room, which the Soviet Union used before the game. It bought back terrible memories for Fetisov along with the rest of the Soviet players and media members, who took part in the game.

Of course, I am not going to rehash the game itself, because of most of you remember what happened like it was yesterday. However, it was interesting to finally get the Russians point of view of the game, especially after being silent for all of these years not wanting to relive the worst loss in the communist countries history.
The ESPN 30 for 30 series of films have done a great job for the past few years looking back at great moments in sports history during the previous 35 years. However, this was one of the best films ever for the series.

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David Hunter
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