There is a fine line between making something sound more exciting than what it actually was and completely misrepresenting what you’re describing. CNN went with the latter in their recap of Team USA’s preliminary round win over Canada in men’s hockey.
After last night’s 4-2 win by the Americans, CNN tried to compare the current squad to the “Miracle on Ice” team from 1980. That was where the United States defeated the Soviet Union in one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports. This narrative was pushed so hard that the article even quoted left winger Sean Farrell when asked about the two teams.
Nothing against this current USA squad but they are not the 1980 team and this is nowhere close to the same situation. It’s actually rather insulting to the 1980 team to even propose this notion.
CNN’s rationale was that this was a massive upset given that it was Team USA’s first win over Canada in an Olympics since 2010 and that due to NHL players not participating, many of Team USA’s current players are college players just like the 1980 squad. That’s great and all but it’s very easy to poke holes in this line of reasoning.
For one thing, the Olympics is every four years. So while 12 years seems like a long time ago, the two teams could only really play against each other in two other Olympic tournaments. In 2014, Canada won in the semifinal 1-0 and the two countries didn’t even play each other in 2018, when NHL players also didn’t compete. Along with Canada’s OT win in the 2010 final (Team USA won in the prelims that year), Canada’s Olympic win streak over the United States was two games before last night.
Second, the Miracle on Ice team was filled with actual amateurs. They may have been talented but they were still amateurs. The current Team USA squad might not have any NHL players but nearly a third of the team plays professionally in Europe with a few others in the AHL.
Canada’s current squad might have most of their players in Europe or in the AHL but it wasn’t like the Soviet Union where they were all pros and they practiced together all the time. 19 of the 20 people on the Soviet squad played for one of the two best teams in the Soviet Union at the time (HC CSKA Moscow or HC Dynamo Moscow).
Add in the geopolitical ramifications of the Miracle on Ice and that makes the comparison even more ludicrous. The Miracle on Ice was played during the Cold War, and both countries boycotted the Summer Olympics soon after this. That hockey game between the United States and the Soviet Union was more than a game. It was arguably the one and only test to show the entire world which superpower would reign supreme over the other.
Other than in films like Canadian Bacon or South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, the United States and Canada haven’t been anywhere close to being political enemies as the USA was/is with the Soviet Union/Russia.
Maybe CNN had a point to call Team USA’s win over Canada an upset but it was a regular upset and nothing more. It didn’t compare to the Miracle on Ice and given that it’s entirely possible for these two teams to meet again in the knockout round, CNN will look even more foolish if Canada beats Team USA when it actually counts.