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Mailbag: Forgotten Miracle


My review of Forgotten Miracle.

In the shadow of the 1980 Miracle On Ice, many of the US Olympic hockey teams have been deemed 'forgotten.' The members of the 1972 roster were the only men to bring a medal home from Sapporo. The 1956 team upset the Canadians to claim the Silver. And yet, the only US team that seems to have truly earned its 'forgotten' status is the 1960 team. They too needed to upset the Soviet Union in a complicated political landscape to earn the Gold. They too were conditioned by a ruthless task-master. And they too were largely written off despite being the host country.

To mark the 50th anniversary of America's first 'Team of Destiny,' Tommy Haines and Andrew Sherburne, the minds behind Pond Hockey, have crafted Forgotten Miracle, a documentary that tells the story of 1960's Team USA from the point of view of its surviving members. The directors use a charming mix of archival footage and animatics to illustrate the words of key figures like Coach Jack Riley, the Cleary brothers, John Mayasich, Jack McCartan and even Canadian captain Harry Sinden. There are a couple of camera zoom flubs and the newspaper headline animations can be a bit much, but neither take away from a very well-done film and a truly compelling tale.

Forgotten Miracle is ultimately the story of a much quieter Gold Medal, contested at a time before Olympic boycotts transformed the games into an analogue for the Cold War and a time when the level of Soviet puck dominance was known only to the players crushed by the hammer and sickle in international competition. The film covers the well-known moments (cutting Herb Brooks and the oxygen tank in the locker room), but it also collects the little known anecdotes that defined the team as a group of a young men who understood the enormity of the task ahead of them and the context of the accomplishment, even if its importance was lost on the average American.

Despite a dearth of hockey documentaries covering the American tradition (really only Pond Hockey and New England Hockey: Life At The Rink come to mind), it's difficult to recognize Forgotten Miracle as an instant classic. But in an era where every Olympic medalist is praised and profiled by mass media, it is a shame that this team never got its praise, its profile and its due. And for that, this hockey doc is essential-viewing.