Once again ESPN has had a wonderful film featured it it’s 30 for 30 series. This has become one of my favorite programs that ESPN has aired recently. It is sports documentaries and the latest one is unique as it tells the story of the Miracle of Ice from the Soviet\Russian perspective and looks at the formation of a Soviet hockey team and the dominance that they had. Winning nearly every world tournament between 1954 and 1991.
The story of Russian Hockey begins with Anatoli Tarasov who told that he should start a hockey team so that the Soviets could compete in the Olympics as the traditional Russian winter sport of Bandy was played by like four teams and all were in Russia. Tarasov had rule books and that was about it as he tried to figure out what hockey was, the government didn’t want him to be copying the Canadian style of playing so he didn’t have any tapes of games. So the Russian style of hockey is developed and Tarasov is considered the father of Russian hockey. As the team developed they worked throughout the year even training in the summer on dirt instead of ice. It then really glosses over the success that they had from until Victor Tikhonov took over. Tikhonov was a more calculated coach everything had a schedule and was more of a dictatorial leader as compared to Tarasov who was someone, at least according to the film, who had heart and cared for the players.
Then we turn to the 1980 Olympics, and that game that everyone makes a big deal about in America. The Miracle on Ice was a close game and we hear the Russian broadcast and news coverage of the event and it was simply “Our team played a close game and lost, good night.” The film also brings in the player element we have most of the players being interviewed and we see Slava Fetisov bringing his daughter up to Lake Placid to see the arena. After the Lake Placid Olympics the film diverts and talks about how players wanted to start trying their luck in the NHL, as they were being drafted since the 70s but nothing really came of this Fetisov is who we see this struggle through. Since the Soviet National Team was a military team and all the members were part of the army and were under contract for like 20 years or something. So there was no way for the Soviets to join the NHL at any point.
This was a very educational film and if you are a fan of hockey it is a must watch. I was interested in seeing one of the greatest hockey stories in the United States from another point of view, but it was more than simply about the 1980 Olympics. It tied in history and politics as well as we see the struggle that players faced and the political establishment that they had to work around to get recognized and to have the opportunity to play in the NHL. I hope that ESPN continues to provide us with more of these interesting documentaries.