Hey there, Monday! Everybody good? We all doing okay? Hanging in there? Good.
So, today we're gonna be chatting about the pre-Miracle on Ice days, back when these ridiculous boys were... well, younger ridiculous boys. Ye olde college days, if you will. There were six schools represented on the Olympic team. Miracle only tells us about the University of Minnesota vs. Boston University rivalry, but there was a whole lot more going on within this group than just that!
Bill Baker | Neal Broten | Steve Christoff | Steve Janaszak | Rob McClanahan | Mike Ramsey | Buzz Schneider | Eric Strobel | Phil Verchota
Herb Brooks coached the Gophers for seven seasons before moving on to the Olympic team, so it's not a huge surprise that almost half the team attended Minnesota. There were national championships won in 1974, 1976 and 1979 (with Bill, Phil and Janny on both the '76 and '79 teams!), and the argument could be made that those teams were some of the best in college hockey history. So they had a ton of teams gunning for them, and while they faced off against Boston University when the stakes were high, the local rivalries ran just as hot, if not more so.
The Bulldog contingent may be very small, but these guys were a thorn in Herb's side for years before he got to scoop them up for the Olympic team. UMD and UM used to both play in the WCHA conference, so these teams would play each other multiple times each season. There was a good amount of bad blood there, and even though UM usually came away victorious, those games were always rough and hard-fought. Bah has said that he wanted to win those games so he could go up to Herb afterwards and say "good game" as the victor (y'know, just rub his face in it a little bit).
I don't know a whole lot about college hockey, but one thing I do know is that the UND/UM rivalry is real and it is intense. I almost feel bad for poor Dave being the only Sioux on a team with so many Gophers! There was a ton of animosity between these two teams; UM beat UND in the 1979 national championship game, but UND beat UM in the 1979 WCHA conference finals. Dave actually scored twice in that game, one of which was a one-on-nobody empty netter that Dave took care to wind up for just to drive the dagger a little further into Gopher hearts.
While the players claim that everyone not from Boston or Minnesota just sort of blended in, make no mistake: the Badgers were far from passive observers, that's for sure. Wisconsin also played in the WCHA (are we noticing a pattern here?), which meant playing UND, UMD and UM multiple times each season. And the Gophers have not been shy about describing their distaste for playing the Badgers, with Bob japping them and Mark scoring goals and the arena full of rowdy, screaming fans. Wisconsin won the national championship in 1977 and made the Frozen Four in 1978, so they were right there in the mix the whole time. There was certainly no love lost.
Hey there, Michigan contingent, I see you! The Falcons might've been the only true neutral members of the Olympic team, despite some serious postseason history. They're the only players on the Olympic team to have played in the NCAA tournament in 1977, 1978 and 1979 (and actually losing to Minnesota in the '79 quarterfinals). But they played in a different conference, so any rivalries with these other schools were on a game-by-game basis.
Yes, Minnesota beat Boston in the 1976 NCAA semifinals and there was a big brawl and all kinds of bad blood. If you've watched Miracle, you know this already. But Boston also faced Wisconsin in the 1978 NCAA semifinals on the way to winning the championship. Those two instances, however, are the only times (I can find, at least) that BU crossed paths with any of these schools from '76-'79. For the most part, BU was concerned with its more local rivals: Boston College, Harvard and the University of New Hampshire, which were represented on the initial Olympic team roster.
So don't think it was just Minnesotans vs. Bostonians! There was allllll sorts of regional infighting happening (#drama), which only makes how close the Olympic team got all the more remarkable. :)