Truthfully, I don't know where this idea came from. It hit me entirely out of nowhere. But what I DO know is that I haven't had this much fun with a post in a really long time! As much as I loved writing about games and Miracle and all that stuff, I really missed writing about the players. So let's get a little bit ridiculous for a second and pretend there's some sort of 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team yearbook.
...And let's also be glad I'm handing out these titles rather than the players, because they'd probably give each other things like "Best Bald Spot" and "Most Annoying." Have I mentioned how much they love each other? ;)
Dave as the prankster of the group. Literally all of them. When the team was traveling, he was known for putting in bogus 3 a.m. wakeup calls to his teammates' rooms, and that "alleged" Christmas tree prank? It has gone "unsolved" for 35+ years. That's the mark of a true master of the craft!
Mark, otherwise known as Magic, was NCAA champion and the best college hockey player in the country, the leading scorer on the gold medal-winning Olympic team and an NHL captain and all-star. And when he retired from his playing career, he coached the U.S. women's Olympic team to a silver medal in 2010, brought the University of Wisconsin women's team from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the heap and led them to several NCAA championships. He can essentially do no wrong.
Phil wins this category for several reasons: 1) Have you ever seen a jollier smile? No, you haven't. 2) His smile is basically ever-present. He's just perpetually joyful! 3) Back in his playing days, people thought he was the team's goon, because his game face was so mean and intense (to say the least). But off the ice, he was harmless and smiley! 4) Some of his teammates call him Grumpy. Yes, just look at what a complete grump he is! :P Guess I'll have to take their word for it!
OC is basically a shot of adrenaline into any situation. Olympic teammates called him Hollywood because when he went out, he went all out. But even if it's not partying we're talking about, he's the life of all "parties." He's the kind of person that can get along with anyone and everyone, except on the ice, where he led his teams in penalty minutes. He defines the phrase "go big or go home."
Bill Baker. As a hockey player, he won the Minnesota state championship in his senior year of high school in 1975, the NCAA championship in 1976 and 1979 (serving as team captain in '79), and the Olympics in 1980 (where he was alternate captain), and then played in the NHL for several years. When he was done with that, he went to dental school and is now an esteemed oral surgeon. And let's not forget he scored what may have been the most important goal of the Olympics, to tie Sweden. Like, are you kidding me? Talk about a Midas touch!
Pav's resume: hockey, hunting, fishing, singing, playing guitar, flying planes, building houses… And as a hockey player, he starred in the NHL for several years because of his insanely creative style of play. People called him a hockey genius. Herb Brooks said asking Pav to dump the puck would be like asking Picasso to paint your fence. The jury's still out on whether or not there's anything he can't do.
Rizzo here has basically built a career out of being outgoing. He was named captain of the Olympic team because he wasn't afraid to talk to anybody (Herb Brooks included) and was such a great, positive presence in the locker room. And nowadays he does motivational speaking and all sorts of public engagements and interviews, and he's the same bubbly, gregarious person he was back then.
Bah's personality is probably this team's best kept secret of the last 35 years. Not only was he an incredibly hard-working hockey player, he's super chatty and tells amazing stories, can chirp his teammates like nobody's business and was (and still is) great at stirring the pot. I mean, at the 35th anniversary reunion, he had his teammates (and the crowd) literally crying with laughter. He's just pure entertainment!
Bob was the guy you hated playing against and loved having on your team. He was the guy everyone wanted to go to war with. He was a win-at-all-costs kind of player and always, always had his teammates' backs. If someone fell victim to a dirty hit, it was Bob that'd be chomping at the bit to get revenge and unleash hell. And he was loyal to his community as well; after the Olympics he returned to his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin to grow the game of hockey and give local kids more opportunities. He was totally selfless.
Neal as Teacher's Pet, but decided that would ultimately be doing his utter likability a disservice. Yes, Herb loved him and largely left him alone (I know, right?), but his teammates loved him as well. He was like their little brother. He was always relaxed and happy and humble and kind, knew his place and kept his mouth shut, and despite his prodigious talent never got on his less gifted teammates. Everyone liked him so much they wanted to make him happy. :)
In the interest of post length, tune in next week for part two!