The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team. By Wayne Coffey. (2005, New York: Three Rivers Press. Softcover. Pp. 273. $13.95 US / $15.95 CAN. ISBN 978-1-4000-4766-6.)
Ask many American hockey fans what they were doing almost 31 years ago and they will tell you about watching a tape-delayed hockey game. Many will describe it with a wistful look on their faces and more than a hint of patriotism in their voices. What American hockey fan does not get chills when they hear Al Michaels utter that now-famous question: “Do you believe in miracles?”
Wayne Coffey, like many hockey fans, focused his narrative in The Boys of Winter on the game against the Soviets. Interspersed within the descriptions of the major plays of the game the reader will find details about the American players. From the backgrounds of Mike Eruzione and Mark Johnson to their thoughts about coach Herb Brooks, Coffey detailed their lives before and after the games.
The book includes eight pages of photographs – from Jim Craig’s blocking a shot by Helmut Balderis to Mark Johnson now famously beating Vladislav Tretiak with one second to go in the first period. The black and white shots lend a historic atmosphere to the images, but since Coffey discussed both the past and present in the book a few current pictures of the players would have rounded out the impact the photos have on the story.
While this was a story that is not new to many hockey fans, Coffey’s structure of mixing the history with the present provided a unique perspective in retelling the story of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team. He devoted a considerable amount of attention to most of the players’ lives. His research on the team members and interviews with their families and friends was extensive. The impact of this primary material was felt throughout the narrative.
Only one player’s story felt slighted – Bob Suter. While it was not apparent whether Coffey had the same access to Suter or his friends or family, it seemed more important to discuss brother Gary’s and son Ryan’s careers rather than what Bob did after the 1980 Olympics.* Since Coffey discussed both the hockey and civilian careers of the other players, it was disappointing to be able to notice such an omission.
While it stuck out, the lack of details on Suter’s life was not enough to detract from the story as a whole. Trips down memory lane can be quite enjoyable and so was this personal perspective on a moment that continues to captivate hockey fans of all ages.
*As for his hockey career: Bob Suter was selected in both the NHL and WHA 1977 amateur drafts – by the LA Kings and the Birmingham Bulls respectively. After the Olympics, he played in the Minnesota North Stars system with the Nashville South Stars. He also coached in the USHL for the Madison Capitols.
Originally from Chicago, I’m doing time in the now professional hockey-less Birmingham, Alabama (but we have club hockey!). Between working, reading, and writing, hockey is that little distraction that keeps me sane. At least once a month, and especially when the Blackhawks are in town, I can be found in Bridgestone Arena cheering on the Predators (except, of course, when the Blackhawks are in town).