My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was both an enjoyable book to read while being simultaneously frustrating as well. It was enjoyable because it gave the story of the miracle on ice, the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team’s triumph over the big, bad USSR team which always won gold medals and which had just crushed the US 10-3 10 days before the game. You also get to read about the coaches and players and that’s cool. However, it’s frustrating because of the way the author chose to construct the book. I realize I’m in the minority here, as many reviewers have expressed admiration for this style, but it annoyed the hell out of me. He starts with the game. People are skating, the puck is being passed. Several minutes into it, a particular US player gets the puck and then you immediately are torn from the game and given a lengthy story on the player, beginning with his birth, his upbringing playing hockey, his pee wee days, his middle school days, his high school playing, his college playing and stats, his status on the Olympic team, who he married, how many kids he had, what career he had after the Olympics were over, and everything up to the present, which is 2005, when the book was published. These breaks last probably 10 pages or more and break up the continuity of the game endlessly. It happens all the time. It’s so damned annoying. Just as you’re about to get into a rush to the goal by the US, the author breaks away for one of these long profiles and you forget about the game. Or not. But by the time you return to the game, you’re so ticked, you no longer care. I have no idea why he chose to do it this way. If I had been writing it, I would have had profiles of all the players in one location, either in the front, the middle, or at the end, and then the game in its entirety.
So the Russians score first, of course. A lot of attention is given to goalie Jim Craig in this book, but deservedly so, because in my opinion, he single handedly won the game for the Americans. He stopped dozens of shots. He had an amazing night. We tied the game. They scored again. We tied it again. Then in the third period, another tie — 3-3. With 10 minutes left in the game, US captain Mike Eruzione, a household name back then, came down the ice and got one past Russia’s world class goalie to put the US up 4-3 and all the US had to do was hang on. And they did. Game over, America wins, stuns the world. And this was a semi-final. We still had to win the gold medal, which we did against Finland a couple of days later. Our coach, Herb Brooks, was a royal jerk to his guys, but he motivated them to win. The Soviets were stunned, but many drank congratulatory cocktails to the Americans later that night, which was classy of them.
It’s kind of funny how the day after I finished reading this book, I read how Jim Craig is putting all of his Olympic stuff up for auction for about $6 million. Weird how things work out. Brooks died in a car crash a few years ago. The team was at the funeral. It was good to catch up on guys whose names I had forgotten and to relive an event I watched on TV so long ago. It has a special memory for me. Aside from my criticism, this is a good book and the author is a good writer, so it’s recommended.