Happy last Monday before Lake Placid! :) I'm excited to the point of bursting, especially because it was announced this morning that the entire team is going to be at the reunion. The entire team, including one reclusive type in particular that I'm a rather large fan of. Honestly, it's a wonder I managed to get anything done today.
But it's Monday, so Miracle Monday must be posted! Today I thought it'd be a good time to talk about Miracle, as it's something of a gateway drug for a new generation of fans. And, while I'm forever grateful for the curiosity this movie sparked in me, it's this same curiosity that led me to realize that the movie isn't ALL accurate. So right now, we're going to go all MythBusters and prove/disprove some of it!
Myth: Tryouts for the Olympic team were only a day long because Herb had already decided the roster on his own.
The Story: This basically couldn't be any more false. Tryouts were held during the 1979 National Sports Festival and were actually several weeks long, complete with four teams playing a round-robin tournament for evaluation purposes. Herb did go into tryouts with a pretty solid idea of who he wanted for a good chunk of the roster (Mark Johnson, Ken Morrow, Buzz Schneider, Jack O'Callahan and Jim Craig among them), but there were a few guys who were total surprises and earned their spot solely based on their performance at tryouts (Bob Suter, Mark Wells, John Harrington). In addition, Herb brought in esteemed coaches from around the country to act as advisors as he put the team together; he wanted to make sure that nobody could criticize him for being biased towards Minnesotan players, so he got input from everybody. The bottom line was that Herb was going to do what Herb wanted to do regardless (which is what the movie's version got across accurately), but this was a way of allaying some criticism and getting feedback on his opinions.
Myth: Jack O'Callahan and Rob McClanahan fought in one of the team's first practices.
The Story: According to Jack O'Callahan himself, Rob was "too smart" to fight him. ;) In all seriousness, while everyone did have to get over all the deep regional differences and various college rivalries, there was no physical fighting once the team was formed. If you're looking for fighting though, there's a story from tryouts that involves Bob Suter nailing Neal Broten and triggering a fight that found him going at it with Phil Verchota. And don't worry, at the 1978 National Sports Festival, OC did apparently fight Steve Christoff, so he doesn't get off totally scot free!
Myth: The "Herbies in the dark" incident ended when Mike Eruzione yelled "I play for the United States of America."
The Story: Sorry, friends. I really wish this one was true, because it's just so perfect. But alas, it's not how it really happened. The Herbies in the dark really did happen like that, but in real life, normally mild-mannered Mark Johnson smashed his stick over the boards in frustration. Herb decided to end it, but not before threatening to skate them until they die if anyone else ever broke a stick like that. Significantly less warm-fuzzy, yes? lol. But apparently this whole incident really was a big team bonding moment, and the movie's version portrays that really well.
Myth: Herb brought in Tim Harrer for a tryout late in the year, which the rest of the players were up in arms about.
Verdict: CONFIRMED! However...
The Story: Tim Harrer wasn't the only guy brought in for a late look. Aaron Broten, another Minnesota Gopher and the younger brother of Neal Broten, was brought in as well. Otherwise, though, the movie was pretty accurate. The team really did pull Herb aside and tell him to cut it out, and Herb decided his new additions weren't valuable enough to risk losing the team chemistry he'd worked so hard to build.
Myth: After the first period of the game against Sweden, Herb ripped into an injured Rob McClanahan, triggering a bit of a yelling match and spurring Rob to play even though the medical staff told him not to.
The Story: This one's true all around, folks. Rob got a bad bone bruise during the first period and was told to sit out the rest of the game. But Herb couldn't afford to lose another player and also needed a way to motivate the rest of the team after a lackluster period, so Rob became a means to an end. By all accounts, though, what happened in real life was significantly worse than what Miracle showed (it IS a Disney movie, after all!). There was screaming that spilled out into the hallway, punches were almost thrown, and it left some players worried that the team had imploded only 20 minutes into the Olympics.
Myth: Herb's amazing pre-game locker room speech.
The Story: While there's some embellishment, it's accuracy is almost word-for-word. "You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours." That's all the real Herb Brooks. (Honestly, who needs a script writer?)