It’s our turn to believe in the miracle

Kurt Russell’s portrayal of Herb Brooks recreates the Miracle on Ice for those who missed out on America’s greatest sports triumph.

by Brian Stensaas

Yeah, all of us around here know the story of the Miracle on Ice.

Local coach takes a bunch of 20-something Minnesotans and Bostonians to the Olympics as huge underdogs and they win, right?

End of story, case closed, dark-haired guy waves the whole team to sing the National Anthem.

But there’s more to it than that. And a lot of us are probably not too aware of exactly what went on.

In the Twin Cities for a variety of hockey-related activities – including the NHL All-Star game – veteran actor Kurt Russell, who plays the late coach Herb Brooks in the film “Miracle,” pondered its significance early Sunday afternoon.

“The human spirit is an amazing thing,” Russell said. “It’s amazing what you can achieve if you have a way to find that level of belief in yourself. In this regard, Herb Brooks really helped those people find that.”

With the 24th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice less than two weeks away, most college students weren’t alive for the event. We weren’t fortunate enough to know what it was like to be listening to the game on the AM car radio and have to pull over with excitement. We never got to feel the pure joy of a sporting event meaning so much for a bunch of guys being paid not even a little.

The few students who were around were more likely interested in gnawing on bright-colored plastic than a silly hockey game.

And at the time, that’s all the win over Russia was to the players, too: a game. They didn’t even get anything. The gold medal came later against Finland.

Still, Brooks had hammered into their brains the importance of winning the game for themselves. As the movie poster points out: If you believe in yourself, anything can happen.

This was the task for those who portrayed the 1980 team. Most of the actors chosen to play the roles weren’t actors at all. They were regular old hockey players asked simply to recreate a miracle.

Yeah, simple. No sweat.

But the truth is, there was nothing simple about it.

Never mind the fact that back in the real 1980 lines of cars stretched blocks just to get fuel or that the United States was just then threatening to boycott the Moscow Summer Olympics or that some of its citizens were being held in Iran.

These guys were being told to give arguably the greatest American sports moment ever the ultimate mulligan. And for our sake, they did.

Back in real life, Russell knew what it was all about, too. But for him, it wasn’t anything to do with the Cold War or redoing something nearly a quarter century later. It was much more personal.

As the 1980 Olympics were being held, Russell’s son, Boston, was in the intensive care unit of a hospital. The victory by Team USA over the Soviet Union was a moment for Russell to have hope.

“It was a welcome respite from that time (in the hospital),” he said. “On a simple level, it was relief. It was a really tough time and I just remember feeling really good for those three hours.”

And that’s just it. This victory meant millions of different things for millions of people.

To the players, it was a 4-3 win after being throttled by the same Russian team 10-3 just before the Olympics started.

To Joe Citizen, it was an in-your-face to those doubting the status of a seemingly broken America.

To us, an event so great that 24 years to the month later, we can still appreciate the magnitude.

To Russell, it was a moment to believe.

“This one event told people that, yeah, David can slew Goliath, the little horse can win the race,” Russell said. “And this little hockey team that had no business to be out on the ice with this great Russian machine can win. It can be done.”

For us, this is the only chance outside of sitting down and talking to these guys to really know what the “Miracle” was all about.

If you were too busy partying, traveling or even studying over the weekend to notice the opening of the movie “Miracle,” do yourself a favor and make some time in the near future.

If anything else, the movie is a history lesson we should all have to see, regardless of whether the full impact has really sunk in. And not only that, but this history lesson is an inspiration and two hours of entertainment all wrapped into one and all through the eyes of a sport.

And done by real sports types.

“That means a lot to me,” said Russell, who played minor league baseball. “I like seeing sports things done right. Very rarely are they.

“(Director Gavin O’Connor) cast this correctly. Actors who want to learn to skate and then pretend to play at (quality) ability – that’s almost impossible. It’s important that these characters who were hockey players were played by hockey players.”

In the wake of recruiting violation after suspension after halftime snafu, “Miracle” is a refreshing breath of sports air. It might not win an Oscar, but the story alone is worth the price of admission.

Just ask its star.