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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
The true story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team and the Miracle on Ice, which Sports Illustrated called the greatest moment in sports history—with a new afterword by Ken Morrow for the fortieth anniversary of the Miracle on Ice
 
“An unvarnished and captivating read.”—Parade
 
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. Their “Miracle on Ice” has become a national fairy tale, but the real Cinderella story is even more remarkable.
 
Wayne Coffey casts a fresh eye on this seminal sports event, giving readers an ice-level view of the amateurs who took on a Russian hockey juggernaut at the height of the Cold War. He details the unusual chemistry of the Americans—formulated by their fiercely determined coach, Herb Brooks—and seamlessly weaves portraits of the boys with the fluid action of the game itself. Coffey also traces the paths of the players and coaches since their stunning victory, examining how the Olympic events affected their lives.
 
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.
The true story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team and the Miracle on Ice, which Sports Illustrated called the greatest moment in sports history—with a new afterword by Ken Morrow for the fortieth anniversary of the Miracle on Ice
 
“An unvarnished and captivating read.”—Parade
 
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. Their “Miracle on Ice” has become a national fairy tale, but the real Cinderella story is even more remarkable.
 
Wayne Coffey casts a fresh eye on this seminal sports event, giving readers an ice-level view of the amateurs who took on a Russian hockey juggernaut at the height of the Cold War. He details the unusual chemistry of the Americans—formulated by their fiercely determined coach, Herb Brooks—and seamlessly weaves portraits of the boys with the fluid action of the game itself. Coffey also traces the paths of the players and coaches since their stunning victory, examining how the Olympic events affected their lives.
 
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.
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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One 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...
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.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from December 20, 2004
    In this well-written and thoroughly researched story of the 1980 Olympic gold-medal winning hockey team, New York Daily News
    sportswriter Coffey does much more than simply evoke memories. Expertly using coach Herb Brooks (who died last year in an auto accident) as his focal point, Coffey shows how Brooks, a devoted student of the game, used both psychological tactics and a groundbreaking system predicated on speed and constant motion to defeat the Soviets, a team of highly trained, older and bigger professionals who had dominated the international competition for decades. Over the years, this story of the Americans' victory has become larger than life, replete with drama and drenched in patriotic themes. Coffey's greatest achievement is that his narrative never sinks into melodrama. He captures the rigorous training and the thrill of the games, yet digs deeper, soberly rendering the tenor of the American spirit amid the Iranian hostage crisis and the Cold War, and humanizing and illuminating (rather than caricaturing) the Russian side. For example, although the Russians were a world superpower, they scrounged for Band-Aids and didn't use slap shots because a shortage of quality sticks meant they couldn't risk breaking them—details suggesting the underlying faults of the Soviet regime. Coffey portrays the American side, a diverse collection of amateurs, warts and all, and gives special attention to Brooks, an enigmatic figure who turned a bunch of regional rivals into a tight-knit family whose bond still exists today. Filled with primary interviews and exceptional insight, Coffey's effort should delight more than just hockey fans. Photos. Agent, Andrew Stuart. (Jan.)

    Forecast
    : Although the current NHL lockout may mean a lack of exposure to this book's natural audience (it won't get plugs between periods of games, since there are none), February marks the 25th anniversary of the 1980 Olympic team, which could help sales.

  • School Library Journal

    May 1, 2005
    Adult/High School -A masterfully told narrative of the team's gold medal victory at Lake Placid, NY. The author's skilled depiction of personalities, breathtaking rendering of action on the ice, talent for capturing colorful regional hotbeds of hockey, and seamless segues between past and present are handled without loss of forward momentum in the story line. The saga of how coach Herb Brooks motivated a roster of 20 amateur, mostly college-age young men to orchestrate victory over an established Soviet team of seasoned, professionally trained skaters offers suspense, heroism, and a dizzying sense of the "full competitive combustion" that is a hallmark of this sport. A portrait of Brooks emerges as an irascible, obstinate, aloof, but savvy coaching genius who elicited singular creativity, grit, and a passionate teamwork ethic from his players. The 1980 setting for the XIII Winter Olympics, well before the age of blockbuster budgets and corporate sponsorship, is described in retrospect as having an "endearing, small-scale quality," where the potential for miraculous athletic performance resided in "a team full of dreamers" rather than a Dream Team. Vignettes of the Americans' hometown roots, as well as selective quotes and insights from members of the Soviet team's skating dynasty, nicely round out the coverage. Bottom line: the sports action is superb, the players' character enhancement and values are deftly related to coaching lessons learned, and the decade perspective is sketched with a fine hand." -Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA"

    Copyright 2005 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    November 15, 2004
    The story of the victory by the U.S. men's hockey team over the vaunted Soviets in the 1980 Winter Olympics is still as luminous and improbable as it was nearly 25 years ago: a group of plucky but not overwhelmingly gifted young amateurs, whose style of play is overhauled by their mercurial but visionary coach Herb Brooks, taking on the virtually unbeatable Soviet pros on their way to a gold medal. In his unintended but effective companion to Disney's 2004 movie " Miracle," sportswriter Coffey details, period by period, the events of that historic game. In doing so, he also tells the individual stories, past and present, of the team and offers a sympathetic view of the Soviet side as well. All 20 U.S. players could be forgiven if, over the past 25 years, they found it impossible to top their Olympic victory. But as player Eric Strobel, embracing the essence of that remarkable team, told Coffey recently, "It was a great moment, but where is it going to get you? You just get on with your life."(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2004, American Library Association.)

  • 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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