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Saturday, February 15, 2014

Americans Steal Game From Russians In Pale 1980 Rematch

This morning the Team USA hockey squad won a disputed shootout victory over Team Russia (f/k/a/ the Soviets) in an eagerly-anticipated, overhyped and utterly pale by comparison rematch of the legendary 1980 Winter Olympics match where the Americans beat the Soviet hockey machine 4-3 at Lake Placid. (That victory, by the way, only ensured the Americans would win a medal; they had to beat Finland two days later to win the gold.)

This morning's game should have been a Russian victory.  A Fedor Tyutin slapshot from the point, seemingly deflected, entered the net after it had been knocked off its moorings by the American goaltender Jonathan Quick.  The refereees in the National Hockey League are alert to such net malfunctions and typically repost the net while play is in action.  What they were doing here is open to debate.  This goal, ruled a good goal on the ice only to be overturned upon review, would have given the Russians a 3-2 lead.  Instead, the game remained tied and ultimately was won by T.J. Oshie on his sixth shootout attempt.  (The use of the shootout is an abomination, much like the shootout in the old North American Soccer League and even penalty kicks in soccer's World Cup.)

But this game was no comparison to the Lake Placid "Miracle on Ice."  The 1980 United States squad was comprised of college kids, pure amateurs, although several were already professional caliber and right after the Olympics did turn professional.  (Watch carefully the end of the USA-Soviet game to see defenseman named Ken Morrow get extensive ice time. Within days of winning the gold medal he joined the NHL's New York Islanders and won silver -- the next four Stanley Cups.) The Soviet squad was crypto-professional and a highly identical squad had beaten National Hockey League all-stars in two of three games in the 1979 Challenge Cup. (Watch the Canadian telecast of the close Soviet victory in Game 2 at Madison Square Garden.) The upset was epic.

Today's matchups, featuring players from the National Hockey League, are all professionals who have competed against one another (or in some cases are teammates). There is no mystery now.  Drop the 1980 comparisons.  You'll sound like a rank amateur if you make them.

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