For today’s Blackhawks Sunday Cinema and Hockey Blend, I’m going to a movie near and dear to the heart. For most American hockey fans I know, this one not only instills a pride of the game, but also a moment in the country’s history where it desperately needed something to provide a shot in the arm.
It came from a hockey game, one where a group of college aged kids would skate away beating the greatest hockey team in the world, who happened to be America’s biggest rival in the Cold War. The movie is Disney’s classic Miracle and it tells the story of the 1980 Miracle on Ice.
Miracle was a result of Hard Work and Perseverance
The movie captures the spirit of the time–a country reeling from a brutal decade with a presidential scandal in Watergate, record inflation, political bickering and division, along with the words of Jimmy Carter’s “Malaise” speech. It all fades into the title of the movie–Miracle.
But it certainly was a crisis of confidence.
The movie stays tight to the real life story, where Herb Brooks took the job after it was rejected by several other coaches. Taking players that befuddled some of the US Hockey brass, it turned out later that he indeed took the right ones, not the best ones. The rivalries between the University of Minnesota and Boston University are highlighted along with a “what the hell is he talking about” moment when Brooks is explaining his hockey strategy.
In one of the most iconic scenes of the movie, a visibly frustrated Brooks watches the team sleepwalk through an exhibition game. Incensed, Brooks orders a bag skate, with players retching, puking, and dropping to the ice in exhaustion.It finally ends when captain Mike Eruzione declares that he plays for the United States of America, not his respective college. Every other player, at different junctures of the movie, introduced themselves by where they played college hockey. Eruzione, displaying the team first mentality Brooks was seeking, ends the skate with it. The moment didn’t exactly happen as the hour-long skate featured a frustrated Mark Johnson slamming his stick against the glass. But Hollywood created the Eruzione bit to show the team-first mentality.
The US, though destroyed by the Soviets 10-3 in an exhibition game, managed to tie and beat teams once Olympic play begins. Facing off against the Soviets in medal play, wouldn’t you know it, they defeat them 4-3 in what is considered one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
But prior to this, Brooks, played masterfully by Kurt Russell, delivers his speech that begins with today’s headline.
Though it’s a professional setting and a different setup, much of what the Blackhawks are doing now can borrow from the ideals of the movie–and the moment.
Blackhawks Experienced Their Own ‘Crisis of Confidence’
It’s during that bag skate that Brooks realizes his team is at a crossroads. With players believing their talent could carry them in games, Brooks knew better. He teaches a harsh lesson in the form of “Herbies”, but his other message is louder than that: The name on the front is a hell of a lot more important than the one on the back.
When the Blackhawks embarked on their plan to tear everything down, it followed a crisis of confidence in every facet. Wandering into one dead end after another for six seasons on the ice, they tried to rebuild on the fly instead of looking at how time had simply passed them by.
They turned to Kyle Davidson, whose work has already been well chronicled on here. But on the hockey side, their great opportunity occurred when they won the draft lottery.
No, not a miracle. But it certainly opened up hope and opportunity that hadn’t existed in some time when Connor Bedard was taken first overall.
They’re still early in the process, and there have been some who are wondering why they’re choosing some of the decisions they are. Walking away from Jonathan Toews, dealing Patrick Kane, Keeping things tight on contract term while paying more for it. Conceding that they’ll need time, and patience to build things the right way.
In the film, Brooks at one point tells them they cannot be common men, that common men go “nowhere.” It’s the paradox of a salary cap world, where teams have to be judicious in how they build, having stars who will need to be paid accordingly but still finding those right players at the right price.
The uncommon, the ones who fit the system, the schema, the organizational philosophy. Bedard is certainly uncommon in that generational players aren’t in the draft every year. Maybe once a decade. It was uncommon that an Oliver Moore caliber player falls to them at 19th overall.
The uncommon scenarios have happened. So too, did the great opportunity.
All in the hopes that the great moment will be waiting at the end.
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