Synopses & Reviews
Once upon a time, they taught us to believe. They were the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, a blue-collar bunch led by an unconventional coach, and they engineered perhaps the greatest sports moment of the twentieth century. Their “Miracle on Ice” has become a national fairy tale, but the real Cinderella story is even more remarkable. It is a legacy of hope, hard work, and homegrown triumph. It is a chronicle of everyday heroes who just wanted to play hockey happily ever after. It is still unbelievable.
The Boys of Winter is an evocative account of the improbable American adventure in Lake Placid, New York. Drawing on hundreds of hours of interviews, Wayne Coffey explores the untold stories of the U.S. upstarts, their Soviet opponents, and the forces that brought them together.
Plagued by the Iran hostage crisis, persistent economic woes, and the ongoing Cold War, the United States battled a pervasive sense of gloom in 1980. And then came the Olympics. Traditionally a playground for the Russian hockey juggernaut and its ever-growing collection of gold medals, an Olympic ice rink seemed an unlikely setting for a Cold War upset. The Russians were experienced professional champions, state-reared and state-supported. The Americans were mostly college kids who had their majors and their stipends and their dreams, a squad that coach Herb Brooks had molded into a team in six months. It was men vs. boys, champions vs. amateurs, communism vs. capitalism.
Coffey casts a fresh eye on this seminal sports event in The Boys of Winter, crafting an intimate look at the team and giving readers an ice-level view of the boys who captivated a country. He details the unusual chemistry of the Americans formulated by a fiercely determined Brooks and he seamlessly weaves portraits of the players with the fluid, fast-paced action of the 1980 game itself. Coffey also traces the paths of the players and coaches since that time, examining how the events in Lake Placid affected and directed their lives and investigating what happens after one conquers the world.
But Coffey not only reveals the anatomy of an underdog, he probes the shocked disbelief of the unlikely losers and how it felt to be taken down by such an overlooked opponent. After all, the greatest American sports moment of the century was a Russian calamity, perhaps even more unimaginable in Moscow than in Minnesota or Massachusetts. Coffey deftly balances the joyous American saga with the perspective of the astonished silver medalists.
Told with warmth and an uncanny eye for detail, The Boys of Winter is an intimate, perceptive portrayal of one Friday night in Lake Placid and the enduring power of the extraordinary.
"In this well-written and thoroughly researched story of the 1980 Olympic gold-medal winning hockey team, New York Daily News sportswriter Coffey does much more than simply evoke memories. Expertly using coach Herb Brooks (who died last year in an auto accident) as his focal point, Coffey shows how Brooks, a devoted student of the game, used both psychological tactics and a groundbreaking system predicated on speed and constant motion to defeat the Soviets, a team of highly trained, older and bigger professionals who had dominated the international competition for decades. Over the years, this story of the Americans' victory has become larger than life, replete with drama and drenched in patriotic themes. Coffey's greatest achievement is that his narrative never sinks into melodrama. He captures the rigorous training and the thrill of the games, yet digs deeper, soberly rendering the tenor of the American spirit amid the Iranian hostage crisis and the Cold War, and humanizing and illuminating (rather than caricaturing) the Russian side. For example, although the Russians were a world superpower, they scrounged for Band-Aids and didn't use slap shots because a shortage of quality sticks meant they couldn't risk breaking them details suggesting the underlying faults of the Soviet regime. Coffey portrays the American side, a diverse collection of amateurs, warts and all, and gives special attention to Brooks, an enigmatic figure who turned a bunch of regional rivals into a tight-knit family whose bond still exists today. Filled with primary interviews and exceptional insight, Coffey's effort should delight more than just hockey fans. Photos. Agent, Andrew Stuart. (Jan.) Forecast : Although the current NHL lockout may mean a lack of exposure to this book's natural audience (it won't get plugs between periods of games, since there are none), February marks the 25th anniversary of the 1980 Olympic team, which could help sales." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"No matter how many times I hear the story of the U.S. Olympic hockey team's heroics in Lake Placid in 1980, I want to hear it again. It is allegory, fable, wonderful drama. Now Wayne Coffey comes to the campfire to tell the tale again, raising the requisite lumps in the requisite throats, adding new details to the familiar pictures. Very nice work. Very nice, indeed." Leigh Montville, author of Ted Williams
"I celebrated my fifteenth birthday on the very day that the 'Boys of Winter' beat the Russians in Lake Placid. Wayne Coffey brilliantly weaves the behind-the-scenes story that amplifies how improbable this 'miracle' really was." Pat LaFontaine, NHL Hall of Famer
"The great stories can always be retold, but when they are retold with the emotion, the muscular prose, the freshness that Coffey brings to the Miracle on Ice, they seem new." Robert Lipsyte, New York Times, and author of The Contender
"First came the Hollywood version of the Miracle on Ice. Now comes the real story, rich in context and texture, as only a journalist and author like Wayne Coffey can report it and tell it." Harvey Araton, New York Times
"Wayne Coffey re-creates the excitement of the unlikely run the U.S. men's hockey team made through the 1980 Olympics...an adventure that seems even more unlikely now than it felt twenty-five years ago." Bill Littlefield, host of NPR's Only a Game and author of Fall Classics
Hundreds of hours of interviews bring a scope, substance, and vividness to the 1980 Olympic drama. The author also examines the devastated Soviets, and what life was like for the players upon their return after their unfathomable loss to the U.S. hockey team.
About the Author
Wayne Coffey is an award-winning sportswriter for New Yorks Daily News and the author of more than thirty books. He lives in the Hudson Valley region of New York.