Today is the Fourth of July, a day observed and celebrated in the United States as Independence Day. While it’s been a crazy 2020, I wanted to look back on one of the biggest moments in American sports history, the Miracle on Ice. February marked 40 years since the US Olympic hockey team pulled an amazing upset of the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. And, Disney helped immortalize that moment in the film “Miracle.”
For my money, this is the best sports movie available on Disney+ right now. While some parts have obviously been changed for dramatic effect, it’s a great dramatization of the events that led up to the upset. It’s the perfect blend of action and drama. While you don’t get to know too many of the players that well, you get enough to feel their joy when selected for the team and their pain when they fall short.
The film is mostly a look at Herb Brooks, the college hockey coach from Minnesota selected to lead a group of college kids against the best national hockey teams in the world. Kurt Russell shines here as Herb Brooks. In his younger days, Russell appeared in several live action movies for “The Wonderful World of Disney” and provided the voice of Copper in “The Fox and the Hound.” Here, a much older Russell, embodies the look, the walk and the talk of Herb Brooks. If you’ve ever seen images of Herb Brooks from the late 70s and early 80s and put them next to Kurt Russell, you will see that Russell was matches Brooks’ image almost perfectly.
One of the coolest moments, that was obviously added to increase the drama, is the moment in Norway where Mike Eruzione steps up to proclaim he plays for the United States of America. It’s a moment that demonstrates to Brooks that he’s getting through to his players to work together and play for their country. Prior to that moment, whenever Brooks asked players who they played for, they all still said their college names. This was the moment someone was playing for something bigger. It’s a moment that can instill patriotism in some and nationalism in others. My hope is that more Americans who see that scene feel patriotic rather than nationalistic. It’s a true love of country that I love seeing.
This movie is what started my true hockey fandom. I had watched hockey off and on before this. I didn’t set out to watch too many games before seeing this film. I would watch my favorite team in the playoffs and that was about it. I came away from this movie wanting to watch more hockey and I’ve been hooked ever since. I knew this was a great movie when I was sitting in the theater, on the edge of my seat, just waiting to see what would happen next. In that moment, I was as thrilled as anyone to see how this played out even though I already knew Mike Eruzione scored the game winning goal. I didn’t care. I was lost in the story. I was lost in the action. And, I love getting lost in it every time I watch this film.