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USA - Russia: 22 Years and Counting

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers


By Rich Libero - Courtesy of www.nhl.com

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Maybe you're old enough to remember those old historical reenactment films they used to show in school. They'd set the historical scene and preface the story by saying "All things are as they were then, except YOU are there."

Pardon us if we get the feeling that we're in Lake Placid and it's 1980 all over again. The only difference, it seems, is that U.S. coach Herb Brooks has donated his plaid pants and sport coats to the Salvation Army.

The planets are aligning. Something cosmic is happening. The more this Olympic hockey tournament moves along, the more it looks the same.

Once again, 22 years ago to the day, the United States defeated Germany in a quarterfinal hockey match. Except this time, the U.S. was flawless, blanking the Germans 5-0 at the E-Center on Wednesday night.

In Lake Placid, 22 years ago, a group of rag-tag college kids squeezed by a tough German squad 4-2. That victory set the stage for the Miracle On Ice against the vaunted Soviet hockey machine two days later.

Once again, the Americans will have the Russians sitting between them and a gold medal on American soil. And once again, the game will be placed on February 22nd.

If you want, we can even relate Sept. 11 to the Iran Hostage Crisis of 1980.

With all these eerie events taking shape, Brooks insists it's nothing more than a coincidence that the U.S. is again playing the Russians.

"There's no similarities whatsoever," Brooks insisted.

Of course there couldn't be. Igor Larionov will be the only player on the ice who played in that fateful match 22 years ago. His Soviet teammate Slava Fetisov will be coaching the team and Brooks will be commanding the Americans.

The Americans and Russians met in the seeding round of this Olympic tournament almost a week ago. The Americans needed a late Brett Hull goal to scratch out a 2-2 tie.

Folks made a big deal about that matchup. In fact, the game was the highest rated televised hockey game in the U.S. since - you guessed it - 22 years ago.

Unlike 1980, however, the U.S. is happy to get a match against the Russians under their belts.

"It helps that we played them before," Brooks said in reference to their first meeting in the tournament. "In the first games the players were going on fumes. They're NHL players and they're rested now. In that sense, we'll see a little more high tempo."

The United States entered Wednesday's game against the Germans knowing they had to take them seriously. Only hours before they watched as Belarus experienced the equivalent of their Miracle On Ice when they upset Sweden, 4-3.

The Belarus players streamed from the bench and hugged their goaltender, jumping up and down in unison. Sticks and gloves flew through the air as the players rejoiced. The celebration took place in the same place on the ice surface as it did for the American team in Lake Placid.

After the game Mighty Ducks defenseman Ruslan Salei said he was six years old and living in Minsk, USSR, when the Americans beat the Soviets. He didn't remember much.

But in a players-only meeting the night before the match against Sweden, Salei said the players talked about the Miracle on Ice. They thought the time was ripe for an upset.

"It's a nice compliment," Brooks said. "It's a great story. A little bit of a 'Rocky' theme."

But something is definitely happening in the cosmos. We cannot be sure what it is. One mini-miracle on ice has already taken place. Could a reenactment be far behind?
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