29 years later, the Unites States Mens hockey team’s gold medal finish in the 1980 Olympics is still a highly cherished moment in sports history.
However, despite the infamous Al Michaels line, “Do you believe in miracles?” and the timeless picture of goaltender Jim Craig draped in the United States flag after the team beat Finland to capture the gold, not much is known about the team and what made them what they were.
Considering this, it was only a matter of time before an author took it upon himself to finally tell the story of one of the most misunderstood teams in sports history.
Luckily, the author that did partake in this most challenging endeavor is former New York Daily News writer Wayne Coffey, who not only gives a front row seat to the action in “The Boys of Winter,” painlessly describing the action on the ice in vivid detail, but also provides an amazing look into each player’s background and finally puts all the pieces together.
However, while the book is a marvelous piece of prose, the thing that sets it apart is its pacing and reporting. Centering around the life and coaching of the team’s coach, Herb Brooks, Coffey paints a sensitive and caring behind the scenes picture of him, while transitioning every so often with stories of the players on the team and how they managed to capture a spot on the team’s roster. In between some great stories on the players that have a “where they were, where they are now,” feel to them, Coffey takes you through the season and eventually the Olympics, where things get spicy.
For this reason alone, the book is a must read, as many of the locker room stories of the players and the tales of their lives after the Olympics have never been told before.
By laying out this book in such a vivid and methodical manner, Coffey never bores the reader. Instead, they come back for more and never want to put it down. Throughout the book, it feels as if every player has a story worth hearing. If hearing about the lives of the American players wasn’t enough, Coffey also has a plethora of interviews from the opposition and paints a remarkable picture of the Russian team and their demise.
With that being said “The Boys of Winter,” is a modern classic that simply must be read if you’re a hockey fan. For many, the sports has changed so much in the past five years that it can barely be recognized.
For those same people, this book defines, recreates and explains why the sport of hockey is so special.
Patrick Hickey Jr.
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