A month from now, you’ll be fully given over to the Olympics.
And if the International Olympic Committee, NBC, the NHL and Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews have their way, you’ll be watching the United States and Canada play their ways to the gold-medal game in Sochi.
It would be a great story the way it was in Salt Lake City in 2002 and Vancouver in 2010.
But we have a better one.
We have the best hockey story of all time. In fact, the best sports story of all time. The “Miracle on Ice.’’
On Feb. 20 at the Music Box Theatre, Tribune entertainment writer Mark Caro and I will make an evening of “Miracle.’’ Join us for a showing of the 2004 movie depicting the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, a bunch of fresh-faced American college kids who stunned the world in Lake Placid by upsetting the mighty Soviets en route to capturing the most unbelievable gold medal.
So many parts of the “Miracle on Ice’’ became legend immediately, but the story resounds because it couldn’t happen today.
Back then, the NHL didn’t go to the Olympics, nor did the Soviets and the rest of Europe’s great players come to North America.
Before the 1980s were over, however, Europeans began invading the NHL. Before the 1990s ended, the NHL would decide to close down for weeks to send its best players to the Games.
The mystery of the awesome talent of the Red Army doesn’t exist anymore. The Soviet Union doesn’t exist anymore. And so, the more that pros compete in the Olympics, the shinier the accomplishment of Herb Brooks’ band of young twentysomethings.
Speaking of the late coach of the 1980 team, Kurt Russell nails him. Just nails him. The speech pattern. The way he carried himself. Russell owns the screen the way Brooks owned the dressing room and the bench.
And speaking of owning the dressing room, “Miracle’’ includes the scene in which Russell as Brooks delivers one of the most compelling pregame speeches in sports. It sounded pure Hollywood, which is what I told Jack O’Callahan, a defenseman on the 1980 team and central figure in the film, not to mention a former Blackhawk who still lives and works here.
Nope, O’Callahan said, it was all true. The scene in the movie captured Brooks’ original speech almost verbatim more than a generation later. There’s a story about how that pregame speech made it onto the screen. There are a lot of stories about that team, in fact, and O’Callahan will tell them and field questions from the audience when he joins us for as a special guest in a post-movie discussion.
The “Miracle on Ice’’ remains the most enduring sports story in my world. I never tire of retelling and reliving it. It was just a little hockey tournament, and it was so much more.
At its core, the United States amateurs won a hockey game against the Soviet professionals.
But the way it played out on a world stage seemed to dress the victory in geopolitics, coming as it did against the backdrop of the Cold War, the oil crisis, a recession and the resignation of a president. That’s some slump, America.
And then a group of smart and opportunistic youngsters whipped a world power, and it felt like a hockey game could end the Iranian hostage crisis.
The movie does a terrific job of laying out the woes besetting America at the time. It’s a history lesson as much as a movie. It’s why you should bring your kids to see “Miracle’’ with us, and don’t worry. we won’t keep them up late.
The puck drops at 7 p.m. Tickets are just $15, a cheap price to relive the greatest sports story in a terrific movie and hear from a player who helped forge the miracle. For information and tickets, go to chicagotribune.com/miracle.Copyright © 2015, RedEye