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The Boys of Winter

Cover of The Boys of Winter

The Boys of Winter

The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U. S. Olympic Hockey Team
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Once upon a time, they taught us to believe. They were the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, a blue-collar bunch led by an unconventional coach, and they engineered perhaps the greatest sports moment of...More
Once upon a time, they taught us to believe. They were the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, a blue-collar bunch led by an unconventional coach, and they engineered perhaps the greatest sports moment of...More
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Description-
  • Once upon a time, they taught us to believe. They were the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, a blue-collar bunch led by an unconventional coach, and they engineered perhaps the greatest sports moment of the twentieth century. Their "Miracle on Ice" has become a national fairy tale, but the real Cinderella story is even more remarkable. It is a legacy of hope, hard work, and homegrown triumph. It is a chronicle of everyday heroes who just wanted to play hockey happily ever after. It is still unbelievable.

    The Boys of Winter is an evocative account of the improbable American adventure in Lake Placid, New York. Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews, Wayne Coffey explores the untold stories of the U.S. upstarts, their Soviet opponents, and the forces that brought them together.

    Plagued by the Iran hostage crisis, persistent economic woes, and the ongoing Cold War, the United States battled a pervasive sense of gloom in 1980. And then came the Olympics. Traditionally a playground for the Russian hockey juggernaut and its ever-growing collection of gold medals, an Olympic ice rink seemed an unlikely setting for a Cold War upset. The Russians were experienced professional champions, state-reared and state-supported. The Americans were mostly college kids who had their majors and their stipends and their dreams, a squad that coach Herb Brooks had molded into a team in six months. It was men vs. boys, champions vs. amateurs, communism vs. capitalism.

    Coffey casts a fresh eye on this seminal sports event in The Boys of Winter, crafting an intimate look at the team and giving readers an ice-level view of the boys who captivated a country. He details the unusual chemistry of the Americans--formulated by a fiercely determined Brooks--and he seamlessly weaves portraits of the players with the fluid, fast-paced action of the 1980 game itself. Coffey also traces the paths of the players and coaches since that time, examining how the events in Lake Placid affected and directed their lives and investigating what happens after one conquers the world.

    But Coffey not only reveals the anatomy of an underdog, he probes the shocked disbelief of the unlikely losers and how it felt to be taken down by such an overlooked opponent. After all, the greatest American sports moment of the century was a Russian calamity, perhaps even more unimaginable in Moscow than in Minnesota or Massachusetts. Coffey deftly balances the joyous American saga with the perspective of the astonished silver medalists.

    Told with warmth and an uncanny eye for detail, The Boys of Winter is an intimate, perceptive portrayal of one Friday night in Lake Placid and the enduring power of the extraordinary.

    From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpts-
  • Chapter One WEEDING THE GARDEN

    Vladimir Petrov was skating in loose figure eights near center ice, his pace slow, his stick still and horizontal, a predator in wait. He edged in for the opening face-off. His two famous wings, Boris Mikhailov and Valery Kharlamov, were on his flanks. Petrov, No. 16, was perhaps the strongest player on the Soviet national team, with blacksmith arms and a bulging neck, a 200-pound slab of muscle who was possessed of the rarest of Russian weapons: a nasty slap shot. Historically, not many Russian players had one because for years not very many practiced slap shots, sticks being both in short supply and of inferior quality. If you wound up and cranked a slap shot, you stood a good chance of getting a splinter and having no stick to play with. "So we never slap puck," defenseman Sergei Starikov said. "We make good wrist shot instead." Petrov was 32, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and nine-time world champion. He didn't know much of anything about Mark Johnson, the U.S. center whom he was about to face off against, except that he wore No. 10 and he looked small and ridiculously young.

    It was 5:06 p.m. in Lake Placid, and 1:06 a.m. in Moscow. Bill Cleary, star of the 1960 gold-medal team that had been the last U.S. team to beat the Soviets, had just finished a brief talk in the locker room. "There's no doubt in my mind--nor in the minds of all the guys on the '60 team--that you are going to win this game. You are a better team than we were," Cleary said. Herb Brooks followed him, standing at one end of Locker Room 5 in the new Olympic Field House, wearing a camel-hair sports coat and plaid pants that would've looked at home on the dance floor of Saturday Night Fever. The room was a cramped, unadorned rectangle with a rubber-mat floor and a steeply pitched ceiling, situated directly beneath the stands. You could hear stomping and chanting and feel the anticipatory buzz that was all over the Adirondacks. There was a small chalkboard to Brooks's right and a tiny shower area behind him, the players on the wood benches rimming the room all around him. On the ride to the arena, Brooks sat with assistant Craig Patrick and they talked about what Brooks was going to say to the team. Brooks loved intrigue, the element of surprise. His whole style of play was constructed on it, moving players around, changing breakout patterns, keeping people guessing about everything. Just when his players were sure he was completely inhumane, he'd throw a tennis ball on the ice for a diversion, or have guys play opposite-handed or in different positions, lifting morale and breaking the routine. "You're going to like it," Brooks said to Patrick of his talk. The locker room was intense and quiet. Defenseman Bill Baker caught the eye of backup goaltender Steve Janaszak, his former teammate at the University of Minnesota. "What do we do now?" Baker mouthed.

    "Pray," Janaszak mouthed back.

    Herb Brooks stood before his twenty players. The quiet got deeper. The coach pulled out a yellow scrap of paper and said, "You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours."

    Neal Broten, 20-year-old center, second youngest player on the youngest Olympic hockey team the United States had ever fielded, looked down at his skates. "I didn't know what he was talking about," Broten said. Broten was nervous, very nervous. He knew he could handle the skating, playing the game. The Russians' strength he wasn't so sure about. Don't make any glaring mistakes, he told himself.

    Led by goaltender Jim Craig, the players charged out of the locker room, turned right and then right again. At the threshold of the ice, Craig paused and looked up for a...
About the Author-
  • Wayne Coffey is an award-winning sportswriter for New York's Daily News and the author of more than thirty books. He lives in the Hudson Valley region of New York.

    From the Hardcover...

Reviews-
  • Al Michaels "A wonderfully detailed enrichment of the greatest sports moment of the twentieth century. Wayne Coffey's fresh perspective artfully takes a twenty-five-year-old story and advances it to the present with an enhanced appreciation of that stunning, breathtaking, still too-amazing-to-believe accomplishment."
  • John Feinstein "The 1980 U.S. hockey team has been mythologized in print and on screen for almost twenty-five years. Wayne Coffey's The Boys of Winter goes much deeper than that and, for the first time, gives us a clear picture of who these remarkable boys--and men--were . . . and are. It is a very fine book."
  • Pat LaFontaine, NHL Hall of Famer "I celebrated my fifteenth birthday on the very day that the 'Boys of Winter' beat the Russians in Lake Placid. Wayne Coffey brilliantly weaves the behind-the-scenes story that amplifies how improbable this 'miracle' really was."
  • Robert Lipsyte, New York Times, and author of The Contender "The great stories can always be retold, but when they are retold with the emotion, the muscular prose, the freshness that Coffey brings to the Miracle on Ice, they seem new."
  • Leigh Montville, author of Ted Williams "No matter how many times I hear the story of the U.S. Olympic hockey team's heroics in Lake Placid in 1980, I want to hear it again. It is allegory, fable, wonderful drama. Now Wayne Coffey comes to the campfire to tell the tale again, raising the requisite lumps in the requisite throats, adding new details to the familiar pictures. Very nice work. Very nice, indeed."
  • Harvey Araton, New York Times "First came the Hollywood version of the Miracle on Ice. Now comes the real story, rich in context and texture, as only a journalist and author like Wayne Coffey can report it and tell it."
  • Jay Atkinson, author of Ice Time "Meticulously researched, entertaining, and enlightening as an example of sportswriting and social history, Wayne Coffey has re-created the event that would eventually put the Cold War on ice. The Boys of Winter is the definitive book on a defining moment in American culture."
  • Bill Littlefield, host of NPR's Only a Game and author of Fall Classics "Wayne Coffey re-creates the excitement of the unlikely run the U.S. men's hockey team made through the 1980 Olympics . . . an adventure that seems even more unlikely now than it felt twenty-five years ago."
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The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U. S. Olympic Hockey Team
Wayne Coffey
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