When the US played Russia in the World Junior’s yesterday, it reminded me of something. As much as I’m a neighbour of the US and look and speak the same as most Americans, I always cheer for Russia when the two teams meet. But the US won this game, just like they did on that wintry day in 1980.
HOCKEY’S OUR GAME, EH!
1980 was the year of the Winter Oympics in Lake Placid, and the US, in a supreme moment of absolute bullshit, beat the mighty Russians and the whole country (at least those who had heard of hockey, probably not in Alabama and Arkansas), celebrated like crazy. It was the worst thing that could have happened. Because after that, the US got this thing in their head about being the best in the world in hockey, just like they are sure they are the best in everything else. The last we needed was another bit of “We’re great. We’re the best. God bless America, blah, blah, blah.” It’s bad enough when talk show hosts and their guests spew garbage about living in the best country in the world, so we don’t need them claiming hockey too.
WAS THE RUSSIAN COACH TIKHONOV PAID OFF?
And even though the American team had only youngsters on their rosters in 1980 and a scattering of players who would eventually play in the NHL (Mike Ramsay, Neil Broten, Mark Johnson), we must never forget that the Russian team were old granddaddies with six who had played in the big 1972 Summit Series (Mikhailov, Petrov, Maltsev, Vasiliev, Tretiak, and the great Valeri Kharlamov, who would be killed in a car accident the following year, 1981,) And for inexplicable reasons, coach and rotten bastard Victor Tikhonov pulled the great Tretiak after the first period and replaced him with mediocre backup Vladimir Myshkin. (And as I write this, I can’t help but think that could it be possible Tikhonov was being paid off? Even Russian players years later admitted they had no idea why Tikhonov did that).
The US had one other game to go, against Finland and they won that too and claimed Olympic gold. And that was that.
And for the sake of American ego’s everwhere, it was the worst thing that could have happened.