Friday, March 29, 2024

The Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey

The Boys of Winter by Wayne Coffey was written in 2005 and subtitled The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team. Coffey intersperses a recounting of what happened in the game with backstory on head coach Herb Brooks, who died in 2003 at the age of 66, and many of the players.

It's fascinating how Brooks bonded players together against him, and Coffey notes that Brooks called his year coaching the team his loneliest in hockey. Even years later, it was hard for Brooks to connect with the players, twelve of whom played in the NHL. 

There were twenty players on the team and profiled in order in the book (along with Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov, U.S. goalie coach Warren Strelow, and 42-year-old Brooks) were Billy Baker, Buzz Schneider, Jack O'Callahan, Mark Johnson, Ken Morrow, John Harrington, Neal Broten, Eric Stobel, Steve Janaszak, Mark Pavelich, Steve Christoff, Jim Craig, Dave Christian, Mark Wells, Dave Silk, and Mike Eruzione. The end of the book covers that prior to the Olympics, none of the 1,780 players selected in the 17 years of the NHL draft had been an American high schooler, two years later, 47 of 252 players were.

Coffey notes how Brooks scheduled a pre-tournament game against the Soviets, who won 10-3, so that they would be over confident. In the Olympic matchup between the teams, Vladislav Tretiak, the star Soviet goalie, was pulled after giving up the tying goal at the very end of the first period. Shots on goal in the game were 39 to 16 in favor of the Soviets, with Jim Craig playing an outstanding game in goal and Mark Johnson and Mike Eruzione scoring a minute and a half apart midway through the third period of the 4-3 U.S. win. It was a solid read and interesting how the movie Miracle closely followed real-life as chronicled in the book.