I have been trying to get Ryan to watch the movie Miracle, well, forever.
As a hockey-loving eight-year-old in 1980, the Miracle On Ice was an amazing thing for me to experience. I didn’t understand the geopolitics that amplified the importance of the event well beyond sports. All I knew was that the USA was not supposed to beat the Soviets, but somehow did. I knew that the Soviets were our enemies, and that somehow made the win all the more special. I think mostly I was just thrilled that everyone was paying attention to hockey, a sport I had already loved for several years and begun to play.
Team USA’s hockey gold medal at Lake Placid has taken on mythical status over the years. In my career, I have had the opportunity to meet and speak to many famous hockey players, from Wayne Gretzky to Gordie Howe. Yet nothing in my professional experience will top the thrill I got from standing next to Herb Brooks and the entire 1980 Olympic team at their first full-team reunion since winning gold, which took place at the 2002 NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles. It felt I was standing next to an immortal.
When Miracle, the only slightly Disnified story of that 1980 team came out, I watched it anxiously. I found it true to the story. I got the DVD and watched it several more times. When we took a family trip to Lake Placid four or five years ago, I took my kids inside the arena where the “miracle” happened, just so that later in life they could say they had stood in the spot where it took place. I got goosebumps just standing inside the empty building.
At that time, Ryan and Riley were too young to care. They were bored, loud, obnoxious. They ran all over the arena. Ryan started counting all the seats. I didn’t care. I took it all in, having never visited there myself.
When Ryan showed an interest in hockey, I tried to get him to watch Miracle. He refused. Riley showed some interest, but quickly grew bored with the non-hockey scenes. Neither was able to understand the college kids vs. pros aspect of the USA-USSR game. They certainly didn’t understand the geopolitics that overshadowed the game.
We watched it in pieces, but Ryan checked out before the climactic scenes.
Fast-forward to Thursday night. It was a trying day in many respects. An unstructured summer day off with outdoor plans ruined by bad weather. There were a few explosions, and general frustrations that one of the few remaining vacation days of the summer had been spoiled by rain.
As we gathered for family dinner, the song Pride (In the Name of Love) by U2 came on the Pandora station we were listening to. I told the kids the song was about Martin Luther King. This began a long connected series of questions that began with “what year did Martin Luther King die?” and end with a discussion about how the late 1960s and 1970s were tough times in America. We covered assassinations, riots, Vietnam, Watergate, the economy, gas shortages, the Iran hostages and the failed rescue attempt.
Riley was driving the discussion. Ryan was quickly losing interest. “Can we talk about something INTERESTING?” came his familiar question.
Sensing an opportunity to tie things to a subject he loves, I asked him “Do you know what happened in 1980 that made a lot of Americans feel good about the USA?”
He took the bait. We talked about the Miracle on Ice. I tried, with some success, to get them to understand why this was so much more than just a hockey game. I got Ryan to understand why it was such an upset. Of course, I also learned that Ryan remembered the final score of the USA-USSR game (of course he did) from some previous discussion years ago.
At the end of this, I asked if they wanted to watch Miracle.
To my delight, Ryan said yes and Riley agreed.
So after dinner we put on the movie. Ryan was focused, even on the non-hockey scenes. He asked lots of questions. Normal bed time came and went, and he asked to keep watching. We finally agreed to pause for the night right when the Olympics were about to begin.
Veronica and I had a bet about whether Ryan would ask to see the rest first thing when he woke up this morning. I thought he would. I won.
At 6:30 he wandered into the kitchen where I was making coffee.
“Can we watch the rest of Miracle?”
And so we did, right after breakfast. Ryan did his best to keep track of the shots on goal. But he also kept track of the movie. I showed Riley how Brooks’ pre-game speech gave me goosebumps. Both kids thought it was funny that Veronica and I got choked up during the final, dramatic scenes.
This is a new level to the hockey bond I share with my son. Mostly he has no interest in anything beyond the recent vintage of the NHL during which he has been a fan. For one of only a very few times, I was able to share something with him from my childhood, and have it resonate with him.
And that, my friends, is my own little miracle for today.