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A big win, but hardly a miracle

February 24, 2010

Like the reported 10.6 million viewers on Sunday, I was watching intently as U.S.A men's hockey played Canada.

Back and forth all game, the dramatic nature of the game made for great television for a sport whose TV coverage is normally lackluster at best.

After U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller had an outstanding 42-save performance, the results easily matched the hype. The Canadians, the most talented team at the Olympics on paper, went down to an American team that was predicted to win a bronze medal at best.

Afterwards, the upset sparked chatter amongst hockey and Olympic pundits as the greatest U.S. hockey game since the "miracle on ice," arguably the most important and awe-inspiring moment in American sports history. Helping matters, Sunday's game took place one day short of the 20th anniversary of the "miracle."

The U.S.'s win on Sunday, regardless of if it leads to gold, will always be remembered by hockey fans.

A tremendous game? Absolutely. A miracle? Not even close.

As much as sports fans love to see instant classics, and Sunday's win was no doubt an instant classic, it came nowhere close to the storybook tension that existed during 1980's Olympic games in Lake Placid, N.Y.

The "miracle on ice" had U.S. college kids against a Soviet Union team that was beating NHL teams in exhibition games and had won six of the last seven gold medals.

Sunday's game was a group of NHL players against a group of slightly-better NHLers.

1980 was still smack dab in the middle of the Cold War between opposing countries and political ideologies.

The most tension felt politically between the United States and Canada is when a border patrol officer hassles you after you visited a Tim Horton's in Canada.

The "miracle on ice" brought the Americans into the gold-medal game, where they defeated Finland 4-2 to take the gold.

Sunday's U.S. win was only a preliminary game.

If Sunday's win over Canada helps vault the U.S. into gold-medal contention, it should stay in U.S. hockey lore forever. But should the U.S. believe in miracles again? No.



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