Olympic hockey is now one of the winter games premiere events. Professional players from the NHL form the core of the strong teams’ rosters. This year’s Winter Olympics mark the 30th anniversary of the USA’s improbable hockey gold medal at the Lake Placid games. Most everyone is familiar with that team’s underdog win. And if somehow you don’t know the story NBC’s commentators will remind you of it every time hockey is mentioned on their broadcasts.
But this year is also the 50th anniversary of an equally improbable USA hockey gold medal. The 1960 US team was not given a chance of beating either Canada or the USSR at the Squaw Valley games. Canada and the USSR were the two powerhouses of international “amateur” hockey. Czechoslovakia and Sweden were also ranked above the American team. Yet the US beat all four winning the gold medal with a 7-0 record.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of one of the greatest achievements is US sports history Golden Puck Pictures has released a 65 minute documentary – Forgotten Miracle. The video, produced with the cooperation of USA Hockey and the US Olympic Committee, is a compelling account of how 17 American amateurs (remember the root of the word is lover) pulled off one of the most thrilling series of upsets since George Washington took command of an army of New Englanders.
In 1960 hockey was a man’s game – a real man’s game. No helmets, no masks, no teeth; the 1960 Olympics were played outdoors. Forgotten Miracle tells the story with half century old film and TV clips and with interviews of the surviving players and their coach, Jack Riley who is now 87. Listening to these old men recall the golden moment of their youth at a remove of 50 years is touching and inspiring. They remember what they did even if almost everyone else has forgotten their feat. They also realize the worth of what they accomplished. The 1960 US Olympic hockey team is still the only undefeated American team in this sport.
This documentary is obviously a labor of love. It has not received much attention and is not readily available. Even the Internet Movie Database is unaware of its existence. At $19.95 it’s a bargain. You can buy it here. It can also be bought through Amazon.com. You don’t have to be a sports fan or a devotee of hockey to be moved by this wonderful depiction of a handful of young men striving to exceed their best at game they loved and for a brief time mastered. You’ll watch it more than once. Highly recommended. February 28th is the 50th anniversary to the day of the team’s gold medal.