Recently I was at home working on my taxes. During this Hockey Week Across America, I would rather be doing other things. But there I was, sitting on the couch, computer on my lap, piles of receipts to be categorized on the coffee table. You know how it goes. While I started reviewing and tallying up my business mileage (gotta get each deduction I can), I had the tv on to break up the tediousness of the work I was doing. I stop and let out a sigh. I look up and see the movie “Miracle” playing on the tv, one of best hockey movies of all time. And how could it not be? A group of young players working harder than they ever have to prepare for the Olympics, defying all odds as they defeat the Soviet hockey team. As the movie went on, my eyes kept getting pulled away from the task at hand and back to the screen. That led me to ask myself. What is it about this sport that keeps drawing me in?
First of all, we must look at the nature of the game. Hockey is a fast paced sport where every player has to be focused and present. In each moment, they’re reacting and also strategizing. To paraphrase Gretzky, great players don’t just play where the puck is right now, they must play where the puck is going to be. It also requires a great deal of mental and physical toughness. Examples of this happen throughout “Miracle” from the team tryouts to the coach having the team workout even more after a game to Jim Craig’s 36 saves in the win over the Soviet Union. Hockey somehow brings more out of each of us than we previously thought possible.
Secondly, hockey tends to demonstrate the best of team sports. While the talent of individual players do help in a hockey game, a team being strong together is one of the most important factors for success. It shows clear as day out on the ice when a team has a strong bond. Players must learn to read each other well and must function well together as a unit out on the ice. As Herb Brooks said during the US team tryouts, “I’m not looking for the best players…I’m looking for the right ones.” The right players with great rapport on a line can make the best impact in a game.
I love this sport for many more reasons, but my favorite is how plays unfold on the ice. Since the players are reacting every moment to what’s happening, the possible outcomes are nearly endless. There’s no huddle to determine the next play in hockey. So when players create these plays on a whim, I feel like I’m watching something of magic unfold. Makes me think of the medal round game against the Soviets in the 1980 Olympics. In the closing seconds of the first period, Dave Christian fires a slap shot at Soviet goalie, Tretiak. Tretiak saves the shot, but the puck bounces back out 20 feet or so in front of him. Mark Johnson of the US cuts between two defenders, finds the puck, and fires it past Tretiak with one second left in the period, tying the score. Players have to have great intuition and skill as well the ability to be in the moment to pull off such a thing of beauty.
Even though I know how “Miracle” ends, I’m always on edge and get goosebumps every time I watch it. The movie depicts one of the all-time great moments in sports history. It also shows what team work, determination, dedication (or should we say heart and grit?) can bring in this great sport. And of course, I previously failed to mention that this all happens in a game where players essentially strap knives to their shoes and play for hours on a giant sheet of ice. This “Hockey Week Across America,” Gamebeast encourages you to remember what you love about this sport, and think of how you can share it with others. If you need any help, we’re here for you on your journey. What is it about hockey that you love? Please share with us.