Friday, February 21, 2014

How Long It's Been: America Won the Olympic Gold Medal in Hockey

The 2014 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team. Sponsored by Metamucil. Because they just didn't give a shit.

Yes, Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick probably prevented the Semifinal from being a 5-0 Canada victory. But now he knows how Cory Schneider of the Devils feels, not getting enough support from his offense.

In a previous post, I suggested that the Gold Medal we won in Lake Placid -- more specifically, the win over the Soviet Union to make the final-game win over Finland, and thus the Gold Medal, possible -- was not a "miracle," no matter how many times it gets called "the Miracle On Ice."

Regardless of whether you agree, look at what the U.S. team has done in subsequent Winter Olympics:

* 1984, Sarajevo, Yugoslavia (Bosnia): Won 1, Lost 2, Tied 2. 7th out of 12.

* 1988, Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Won 2, Lost 3. 8th out of 12.

* 1992, Albertville, France: Won 4, Tied 1, Lost 0, beating France in the Quarterfinals, losing in the Semifinals to "The Unified Team" (a last gasp for the Soviet Union, which broke up a few weeks earlier, but the team was kept together for logistical reasons, and it beat Canada for the Gold Medal). Lost the Bronze Medal to Czechoslovakia, this finishing 4th.

* 1994, Lillehammer, Norway: Won 1, Tied 3, Lost 1. Lost in the Quarterfinals to Finland. Ranked 8th out of 12.

* 1998, Nagano, Japan: Won 1, Lost 2. Lost in the Quarterfinals to the Czech Republic (after Slovakia split from them in 1993). These Games, the first in which current NHL players were allowed, were disastrous for the Canadian team, who flopped, but an uglier one for us, as our players were seriously misbehaving off the ice.

* 2002, Salt Lake City, Utah: Lost in the Gold Medal Game to Canada. We hung with them for 2 periods, but ran out of gas in the 3rd.

* 2006, Turin, Italy: Won 1, Lost 3, Tied 1. Lost to Finland in the Quarterfinals. 8th out of 12.

* 2010, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada: Again, lost to Canada in the Gold Medal Game, this time in overtime. Zach Parise -- then of the Devils -- tied it in the last minute of regulation, and it was very possible that we would do to Canada what they did to us 8 years earlier: Beat them on home soil, and what was a disappointment to us would have been a disgrace to them. But Sidney Crosby scored the Golden Goal.

* 2014, Sochi, Russia: Lost in the Semifinals to Canada, 1-0, and it never looked like we were going to score.

So the last Gold Medal for the U.S. hockey team remains the 4-2 win over Finland, in Lake Placid, on February 24, 1980.

As of this coming Monday, it will have been 34 years. How long has it been?


Coach Herb Brooks has died, but all 20 players are still alive. One, Bob Suter, is the father of current U.S. player Ryan Suter, who plays his club hockey with the Nashville Predators.

The Predators did not exist in 1980. Nor did the San Jose Sharks, the revived Ottawa Senators, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Florida Panthers, the Anaheim Ducks, the Columbus Blue Jackets or the Minnesota Wild. The Dallas Stars were still the Minnesota North Stars. The Atlanta Flames were about to sign U.S. goalie Jim Craig, and then, in the next off-season, they moved to Calgary. And the New Jersey Devils were still the Colorado Rockies -- a name that now belongs to a Major League Baseball team.

The NHL was still in its first season with the 4 surviving teams from the World Hockey Association. Of those, only 1 is still in the same metro area, the Edmonton Oilers. The Hartford Whalers have become the Carolina Hurricanes. The Quebec Nordiques have become the Colorado Avalanche. And the old Winnipeg Jets became the Phoenix Coyotes, and will change their name to the Arizona Coyotes in the coming off-season. (The Atlanta Thrashers have since begun play, and have also since become the new Winnipeg Jets.)

At that point, the Oilers, the Flames, the Rockies/Devils, the Nords/Avs (unless you count the 1977 WHA title), the Lightning, the Whalers/Canes (unless you count the 1973 WHA title), the Ducks, the New York Islanders, the Los Angeles Kings, the Houston Rockets, the Detroit Pistons, the Chicago Bulls, the San Antonio Spurs, the Miami Heat, the Dallas Mavericks, the San Francisco 49ers, the Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the New Orleans Saints, the Seattle Seahawks, the Philadelphia Phillies, the Kansas City Royals, the Minnesota Twins, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Braves since they moved to Atlanta, the Florida/Miami Marlins, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team now known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the Giants since they moved to San Francisco, had never won a World Championship.
The Isles, the Oilers, the Flames, the Pens, the Devils, the Lightning, the Canes, the Ducks, the Kings, the Rockets, the Pistons, the Bulls, the Spurs, the Heat, the Mavs, the Seahawks, the Niners, the Pats, the Bucs, the Saints, the Orlando Magic, the Utah Jazz, the Indiana Pacers (unless you count their 3 ABA titles), the New Jersey (now Brooklyn) Nets (unless you count the 1974 and '76 ABA titles), the Buffalo Bills (unless you count the 1964 and '65 AFL titles), the San Diego Chargers (unless you count the 1963 AFL title), the Atlanta Falcons, the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans franchise (unless you count the 1960 and '61 AFL titles), the Carolina Panthers, the Royals, the Braves since they moved to Atlanta, the Jays, the Marlins, the D-backs, the Angels, the Milwaukee Brewers, the San Diego Padres, the Houston Astros, the Colorado Rockies, the Tampa Bay Rays, the Texas Rangers, the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise, the Vancouver Canucks, the Florida Panthers, the Washington Capitals and the new Ottawa Senators had never reached their sports' finals.
And (aside from the previously-mentioned NHL teams), the Magic, the Mavs, the Heat, the Marlins, the Rockies, the D-backs, the Rays, the old Charlotte Hornets (now the New Orleans Pelicans), the new Charlotte Hornets (formerly the Bobcats), the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Memphis Grizzlies, the Toronto Raptors, the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Carolina Panthers, the Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans didn't even exist yet.

As of Super Bowl XLVIII, those facts are no longer true.
The NHL of 1980 was in transition between the Montreal Canadiens dynasty that had won the last 4 Stanley Cups, and 10 of the last 15, and the Islander dynasty that would win the next 4, led by Denis Potvin, Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy and Billy Smith. Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, and their Oiler teammates were just stepping onto the stage, but by no means were they ready yet. Gordie Howe, Bobby Hull and Dave Keon were wrapping up legendary careers. Bobby Orr should still have been in his prime, but his knees had forced him to retire a year earlier. His Bruins teammate Phil Esposito was then the biggest star on the New York Rangers. Canadiens Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson and Bob Gainey, Bobby Clarke of the Philadelphia Flyers' 1974 and '75 Cup winners, Darryl Sittler of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Gilbert Perrault of the Buffalo Sabres and Marcel Dionne of the Los Angeles Kings were the biggest players in the League.

In the NBA, the Los Angeles Clippers were still playing down the coast in San Diego, the Kings in Kansas City, and the New Jersey Nets were playing on the Rutgers campus, as the Meadowlands arena was just beginning construction.  In the NFL, the Colts were still in Baltimore, the Cardinals were still in St. Louis, the Rams were still in Los Angeles, the Titans were still the Houston Oilers. In MLB, the Brewers were still in the AL, the Astros still in the National League, and the Washington Nationals were still the Montreal Expos.

The ideas of the NBA using international players, MLB using Asian natives, and the best players from Eastern Europe being allowed to leave for the NHL (unless they successfully defected, like the Stastny brothers of Slovakia and the Nordiques) were far-fetched.
Not one player on the current U.S. team, including current Ranger Captain Ryan Callahan, had yet been born.

Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller was born 5 months later; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, 7 months later. For the current Canada team, which will play Sweden on Sunday for the Gold Medal, Martin St. Louis, Roberto Luongo, Patrick Marleau and Chris Kunitz had been born, but current Islander Captain John Tavares had not. Devils legends Scott Stevens, John MacLean, Ken Daneyko, Bruce Driver and Claude Lemieux were in high school. Martin Brodeur and Scott Niedermayer were in elementary school. Patrik Elias was about to turn 4.

In addition to the Canadiens, the defending World Champions were the Yankees, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Seattle SuperSonics -- who are now the Oklahoma City Thunder. Muhammad Ali had retired as Heavyweight Champion of the World, the WBC and the WBA were recognizing Larry Holmes as Champion, while the IBF didn't exist yet.

Since Lake Placid, the Olympic Games have been held twice each in America, Canada and Russia, and once each in the former Yugoslavia, Korea, France, Spain, Norway, Japan, Australia, Greece, Italy, China and Britain.

The President of the United States was Jimmy Carter, but he was being besieged by inflation and high gas prices at home, and the Iran Hostage Crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and OPEC abroad. Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts and, to a lesser extent, Governor Jerry Brown of California were challenging him in the Democratic Primaries. Brown's predecessor, Ronald Reagan, would swamp Carter in the election that November, and Carter's achievements, which were interesting, soon became forgotten. George H.W. Bush was one of Reagan's competitors for the Republican nomination, and would be elected Vice President with him, and would succeed him 8 years later.

Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, their wives, and the widows of Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were still alive. Bill Clinton was about to be dumped out of the Governorship of Arkansas, although he would regain it 2 years later. George W. Bush had recently lost his 1st run for public office, for Congressman from Texas. Barack Obama was a freshman at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and Michelle Robinson was about to graduate high school. Joe Biden was in his 2nd term in the U.S. Senate from Delaware, and John Boehner was working for Nucite Sales, apparently believing the line in the movie The Graduate about the future being "plastics."

The Governor of New York was Hugh Carey, and of New Jersey Brendan Byrne. The Mayor of New York City was Ed Koch, about to face a transit strike, and not only beat but embarrass the union.

The Prime Minister of Canada was Joe Clark, but his Progressive Conservative Party government was about to fall apart, leading to the return to power through election of the Liberal Party and former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. The monarch of Great Britain was Queen Elizabeth II -- that hasn't changed -- but Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister.

England's FA Cup would soon be won by West Ham United, of East London, on a goal by Trevor Brooking, defeating North Londoners Arsenal, who had won it the year before. The Hammers have not won a major trophy since. Liverpool would repeat as Football League Champions, and the previous season's Champions, Nottingham Forest, would repeat as winners of the European Cup, defeating German club Hamburger SV in the Final.

Major books of 1980 included Warren Adler's The War of the Roses, Jean M. Auel's The Clan of the Cave Bear, Pat Conroy's The Lords of Discipline, Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, Ken Follett's The Key to Rebecca, L. Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth, P.D. James' Innocent Blood, Stephen King's Firestarter, Judith Krantz' Princess Daisy, Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Identity, and Sidney Sheldon's Rage of Angels. All were made into major motion pictures or TV-movies.

Published that year, long after its author's suicide, was A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Numerous attempts have been made to film it. At various times, it has been set to star John Belushi, Harris "Divine" Milstead, John Candy and Chris Farley as lead character Ignatius J. Reilly. All died before the project could begin, and all before reaching their 44th birthday. (Say what you want about drugs, but these men were also quite fat, which is probably why they were considered, as much as for their acting ability.) Also considered, but still alive at this writing, have been John Goodman, Stephen Fry, Zach Galifianakis and (the closest thing to a thin guy thus far) Will Ferrell. Hurricane Katrina set the New Orleans-based project back as well. Steven Soderbergh, at one point scheduled to direct, remarked "I think it’s cursed. I’m not prone to superstition, but that project has got bad mojo on it."

In the weeks surrounding the "Miracle On Ice," Paul McCartney was arrested in Japan for bringing marijuana into the country, and held for 11 days before being deported. Ron Wood of the Rooling Stones and his fiancée Joe Wood were similarly busted in the Caribbean for cocaine possession. Pink Floyd opened their tour to support The Wall. David and Angela Bowie got divorced. Bon Scott of AC/DC drank himself to death. The Pretenders, Orchestral Manoeuvers in the Dark, the Psychedelic Furs, Bryan Adams and Christopher Cross released their self-titled debut albums, Bob Seger released Against the Wind, and The Cure released Boys Don't Cry. The Clash had recently released London Calling.

New in theaters when the Miracle On Ice happened were American Gigolo, the original version of The Fog, Roman Polanski's X-rated version of Caligula, and Hero At Large, starring John Ritter as a struggling actor hired to play a superhero, standing in for the actor playing the hero in a recent film (within the film), who, through having his costume on underneath his street clothes, is able to use the shock of "Captain Avenger" appearing before would-be store robbers to foil the robbery, and becomes a real-life hero, and then lets his fame go to his head.

Wrapping up their first seasons -- U.S. television seasons ended in late March in those days -- were Hart to Hart, Benson, Trapper John, M.D., Knots Landing and The Facts of Life. J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) was about to get shot on Dallas, inventing the TV end-of-season cliffhanger.

There were desktop computers, but, as yet, no taptops. Mobile telephones existed, but they were as big as Army walkie-talkies. AIDS was around, but not yet discovered. "Chronic fatigue syndrome" was hardly known, and even more rarely were doctors, who hate to admit that they don't know something or can't cure something, willing to diagnose it. NASA was still trying and failing to get the first space shuttle off the ground.

In the late winter of 1980, Voyager 2 reached Saturn, providing the best pictures yet of the ringed planet, and discovering a few of its moons. Andrei Sakharov, the scientist who essentially built the first Soviet hydrogen bomb, and then turned anti-nuclear and human rights activist, was arrested by his own government. Israel and Egypt, following their Camp David Accords, established full diplomatic relations. Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated for speaking out against El Salvador's fascist government. A plane crash wiped out the U.S. boxing team -- not that they would have gone to the Olympics in Moscow that summer anyway, because Carter announced, in response to the invasion of Afghanistan, that the U.S. was boycotting the games.

In America, the ABSCAM investigation snared several members of the U.S. Congress, including the man who was then my Congressman, Frank Thompson, and one of my Senators, Harrison Williams; both would go to prison. Herman Tarnower, author of The Scarsdale Diet, would be shot and killed by his girlfriend, Jean Harris. Angelo Bruno, leader of the Philadelphia Mob, was rubbed out. His successor was Phil Testa, known as the Chicken Man because the front for his activities was a poultry business. A year later, he, too, would be rubbed out, as told in Bruce Springsteen's song "Atlantic City."

George Meany, and William O. Douglas, and Jimmy Durante died. So did David Janssen, star of The Fugitive, and the actor best known for playing The Lone Ranger's companion Tonto, Jay Silverheels. So did track legend Jesse Owens, and English soccer icon Dixie Dean. (Not to be confused with American baseball icon Dizzy Dean, who died in 1974.) Christina Ricci, and Chelsea Clinton, and John Ritter's actor son Jason Ritter were born. So were hockey star Simon Gagne, and football star Todd Heap, and figure skater Alexei Yagudin.

February 24, 1980. The American hockey team won the Olympic Gold Medal. They've come close since, but haven't done it again.

They will get another chance in February 2018, in Pyeongchang, South Korea.


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