If you know anything about hockey, just from pop culture – you probably know two things. The Mighty Ducks and Miracle – the movie about the 1980 US Men’s Hockey Team.
The Miracle on Ice
The Men’s Hockey Team defeated the Soviet team. Which was a big deal! Our national team was made up of mostly college players, the youngest team in competition – the USSR had a senior team who trained together constantly. They had that team cohesion and a government back training system and just steamrolled everyone. They’d won the gold the previous 4 Olympics.
In the lead up to the goal medal game, the US beat the USSR. They then went on to beat Finland to win gold. But it was the victory over the USSR that was the Miracle on Ice. (The USSR beat Sweden for Bronze)
This is the 40th Anniversary. Various teams have been quick to bring out various members of the team. Mike Eruzione has a book to promote, and dropped the puck in Pittsburgh. They were scheduled to drop the puck ON the anniversary in Las Vegas.
And maybe we all should have paid more attention to that location. Because during Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Las Vegas, he pulled the team up on stage. Where they laughed at his sad attempt at jokes and wore MAGA hats. The most disgusting hat trick in hockey.
When the backlash appeared online, they seemed surprised and doubled down with this “explanation.”
To us, this is not about politics or choosing sides. This is about proudly representing the United States of America. Whether your beliefs are Democratic, Republican, Independent, etc. we support that and are proud to represent the USA. It is an honor and privilege! ????— 1980 Miracle Hockey Team (@1980MiracleTeam) February 22, 2020
But I am far from the first to point out that they were not representing the US at this event. It was a campaign rally for the sitting President. Much as I sigh and roll my eyes when athletes have gone to the White House because of the ‘honor of the invitation’ when it’s been extended by Trump…. at least that’s a state event. By the United States of America.
Going to a campaign rally, wearing his campaign hats? That’s political.
Is it surprising? In a sport that’s as white and conservative as hockey is – it isn’t. Most former hockey players move on to finance related jobs, if they don’t move on to coaching. So being a Republican is hardly the surprising thing here.
What’s disappointing is that their moment was about so much more. It inspired so many American youths to pick up a hockey stick and take to the ice. And by standing behind this particular president, and wearing those MAGA hats – they’ve told a substantial part of the nation that no, hockey is not for you.
The Real Miracle
The anniversary came and went. We’d talked about showing Miracle to the kids, since it was the anniversary. At the end of the day, I just didn’t have the energy to watch it and then explain what these men stood for by standing with Trump.
There are a lot of negative things about this sport that I will never forget. Time and time again, organizations look the other way. If you can produce results, they’ll ignore things like racist slurs or abuse. They’ll suggest that on the ice is no place for politics, even as they promote the hell out of what was at heart a political moment – it wasn’t just the US beating the USSR on the ice. It was about the US striking back against a Communist power.
It was funny, too. Just as I was feeling down about the sport of hockey – out came David Ayres in Toronto. And while it wasn’t in America… the story of a 42 year old Zamboni driver being activated as the EBUG (Emergency Back Up Goalie) and playing half a game for the Carolina Hurricanes and earning a win? Well, that was a Miracle on Ice too, wasn’t it? It reminded me that that was what makes me love the sport. That a man who thought he’d missed his chance at the NHL because of a kidney transplant, managed to get that shot and be the hero for the night.