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Commentary: Cold War II

By Josh Bogorad
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday Feb. 21, 2002

Tomorrow marks the 22nd anniversary of the greatest upset in the history of sports. On Feb. 22, 1980, a collection of American collegiate hockey players shocked the world and changed the sport of hockey forever by beating an unbeatable Soviet squad. Now dubbed, "The Miracle on Ice," The U.S. victory over the Soviets has proved to be a timeless event in Olympic and sports history.

This year, however, will be unlike any other Feb. 22 since the 1980 games in Lake Placid, N.Y. Tomorrow, the two teams will face off against each other in a matchup that bears an eerie resemblance to the game played 22 years ago.

The personnel links to the old teams are countless. Behind the American bench, coaching the United States for the first time since he guided the Americans to gold in Lake Placid, is Herb Brooks. The American's general manager, Craig Patrick, is the same as in 1980, as well.

The Russian teams finds itself with similar ties, as well. Slava Fetisov, one of the defenseman representing the Soviet Union in the Miracle on Ice, is now the coach of Team Russia. One of his assistants is Stanislav Tretiak, Fetisov's former teammate and goalie of the 1980 Soviet squad.

As for the Americans who pulled off the shocker, they will be in attendance just as they have for every U.S. game thus far. Earlier this month, the full 20-man roster was reunited for the first time since pulling off the incredible upset. They lit the torch to open the Olympic games this year and have provided the American hockey team with enough inspiration to motivate anyone.

The setting for the games this year also provides almost a mirror image to 1980. The Winter Games are being held by the United States for the first time since these two teams met 22 years ago. America once again finds itself in a state of turmoil that has affected the psyche of the average citizen. Just as in 1980, America is looking at patriotism differently than other times in our country's history. The problems of our country cannot be solved in 60 minutes on an ice rink, but it sure can provide a distraction and a sense of pride for Americans.

This time around, however, will be different as well. Regardless of the outcome, there will be no miracle. These two teams, unlike the 1980 contest, are quite evenly matched. They proved this last week as they played to a 2-2 tie in the first round of the tournament. This time there will be no ties. One of these teams will advance to the gold medal game, and the other will settle for a shot at bronze. Also different is that neither team expects to win easily. Twenty-two years ago, the Soviets had nothing to play for. They were practically awarded the gold medal before the games began because they were perceived as the team no one could beat. The Americans, conversely, had nothing to lose because they were never given a chance to win a medal, let alone win the gold.

When the two teams meet tomorrow, this will hardly be the case. There is a mutual respect between the two teams, and they both know it will be a furious battle, with only one prevailing.

The United States will do its best to repeat history and carry on a remarkable tradition at home. Dating back to 1960, America has never finished worse than second place when the Olympics are on U.S. soil, and the team has won gold the last two times.

The Russians advanced to this round by beating the Czech Republic, avenging a loss to the Czechs in last year's gold medal game. They will try to make this a trend by attempting to avenge the worst loss in the country's history.

Tomorrow, 44 men will suit up in their country's jersey and play for the honor of themselves, their teammates and their country. Thousands will pack the arena with red, white and blue flags (ironically enough the same colors for both teams now), and millions will watch worldwide to see how the highly anticipated rematch turns out. No one knows now what the outcome of tomorrow night's game will be, but if history is any indicator, it should be one to remember.


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