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The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team Paperback – October 25, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 124 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this well-written and thoroughly researched story of the 1980 Olympic gold-medal winning hockey team, New York Daily News sportswriter Coffey does much more than simply evoke memories. Expertly using coach Herb Brooks (who died last year in an auto accident) as his focal point, Coffey shows how Brooks, a devoted student of the game, used both psychological tactics and a groundbreaking system predicated on speed and constant motion to defeat the Soviets, a team of highly trained, older and bigger professionals who had dominated the international competition for decades. Over the years, this story of the Americans' victory has become larger than life, replete with drama and drenched in patriotic themes. Coffey's greatest achievement is that his narrative never sinks into melodrama. He captures the rigorous training and the thrill of the games, yet digs deeper, soberly rendering the tenor of the American spirit amid the Iranian hostage crisis and the Cold War, and humanizing and illuminating (rather than caricaturing) the Russian side. For example, although the Russians were a world superpower, they scrounged for Band-Aids and didn't use slap shots because a shortage of quality sticks meant they couldn't risk breaking them—details suggesting the underlying faults of the Soviet regime. Coffey portrays the American side, a diverse collection of amateurs, warts and all, and gives special attention to Brooks, an enigmatic figure who turned a bunch of regional rivals into a tight-knit family whose bond still exists today. Filled with primary interviews and exceptional insight, Coffey's effort should delight more than just hockey fans. Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–A masterfully told narrative of the team's gold medal victory at Lake Placid, NY. The author's skilled depiction of personalities, breathtaking rendering of action on the ice, talent for capturing colorful regional hotbeds of hockey, and seamless segues between past and present are handled without loss of forward momentum in the story line. The saga of how coach Herb Brooks motivated a roster of 20 amateur, mostly college-age young men to orchestrate victory over an established Soviet team of seasoned, professionally trained skaters offers suspense, heroism, and a dizzying sense of the "full competitive combustion" that is a hallmark of this sport. A portrait of Brooks emerges as an irascible, obstinate, aloof, but savvy coaching genius who elicited singular creativity, grit, and a passionate teamwork ethic from his players. The 1980 setting for the XIII Winter Olympics, well before the age of blockbuster budgets and corporate sponsorship, is described in retrospect as having an "endearing, small-scale quality," where the potential for miraculous athletic performance resided in "a team full of dreamers" rather than a Dream Team. Vignettes of the Americans' hometown roots, as well as selective quotes and insights from members of the Soviet team's skating dynasty, nicely round out the coverage. Bottom line: the sports action is superb, the players' character enhancement and values are deftly related to coaching lessons learned, and the decade perspective is sketched with a fine hand.–Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Publishers; Reprint edition (October 25, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400047668
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400047666
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (124 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #50,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Craig VINE VOICE on January 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
More than just an underdog-achieves-greatness story, this book is a revealing look at the elements that went into that incredible victory in Lake Placid. Little is glossed over, and both Herb Brooks and several players are examined in detail. Brooks is not portrayed as a saint, but his genius in creating a team and a system to win gold shines through.

The Russians are not treated as a bunch of villains, but instead are shown to be just as human as the American boys. The political climate of the time obviously made the victory that much sweeter, and Coffey does an excellent job of setting the victory against that backdrop.

As a hockey fan, it's difficult to think of a greater moment than watching the players and crowd go crazy as those final seconds ticked away - for many of us, it still gives us chills 25 years later. This book does a wonderful job of honoring one of the great moments in American sports history.
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Format: Hardcover
I was 18, almost 19, years old that night in February 1980. I was a freshman in college, only a handful of years younger than the talented young men who donned the sweaters of the USA to play in the Lake Placid Olympics. It would be hard to imagine a time when morale was lower, and people felt more negatively about being an American--it was the Carter administration, interest rates were 21%, the Iranian hostage crisis was in full disaster mode, and the Soviets had just invaded Afghanistan. I grew up 65 miles from Three Mile Island, and the accident there had occurred two days after my 18th birthday in March 1979, and nobody knew whether the accident there would have long-term negative effects. Relations with the Soviets were at their nadir, the Cold War was at its height, and I remembered that things in this country were at about their lowest point possible.

And then a miracle occurred.

Herb Brooks and his team of unknown college kids beat the greatest hockey team in the world, perhaps in history. I will never forget--as long as I live--hearing Al Michaels cry out, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" as time ran out, and seeing the bedlam when the U.S. boys realized what they had accomplished. At that moment, it was okay to be an American again. I think that the resurgence of the Reagan years actually began that night in Lake Placid. It certainly marked the height of amateur hockey in the Olympics--the whole concept of "Dream Teams" was not even yet on the drawing board.

Wayne Coffey has written the definitive book on the Miracle game. It covers the action on the ice in minute detail while also telling us just who these unknown college kids--and their sphinx-like coach--were.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Wayne Coffey is a wonderful sportswriter for the NY Daily News, so seeing his name on this book gave me every reason to believe I would like it. I was right.

A huge amount has been written and done about this team. There was a full-length movie, an outstanding HBO documentary and a made-for-TV movie (Karl Malden as Herb Brooks).

This book fills a lot of the gaps and gives a lot of insight into the individuals. I especially appreciated that Coffey interviewed many of the Russians, his sections on Tarasov and Tikhinov are fascinating.

Unlike Mr. Barat, I was able to follow the narrative of the book, it did not bounce around too much for me.

And while I would have preferred more coverage on the other games the team played, before and during the Olympics, that is a mild quibble.

The biggest gotcha in the book is when it talks about the game that the US played against the USSR two weeks before the Olympics. That game was won by the USSR 10-3 and it wasn't that close. Other sources said that both teams were trying 100%. Coffey believes that Brooks held back the US team a lot, not wanting to show his hand to them.

I rarely give 5 stars to a book, this one deserves them.
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Format: Hardcover
On the fateful night of 22 February 1980, I was 12 yrs old and witnessed the best event on tv or otherwise that I had *ever* seen or have seen since. The game against the Russians and ensuing victory forever changed my life. I have been both a hockey fan since and I most assuredly *do* believe in miracles. I was too young to appreciate the world events that kept the mood in the country downtrodden but I will always remember that game if only for the tremendously motivating story that it is. It's not possible to capture an intangible like hope, however Coffey's book certainly accomplishes precisely that. If you never read another sports based book, this one will be all that you'll ever need. Now if I can just find a VHS copy of the 13th Winter Olypic Games that features the game in question so I can burn the game to DVD to have forever more.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
One of the great books on leadership and how coaching makes an enormous difference. Miracle is all Hollywood-- The Boys of Winter is about the nuts and bolts of assembling a group of youngsters and building them into a real team where the sum of the parts far exceeded the individual parts. A great addition is learning about where each player went after 1980 and where they are today. The book might have focused more on the Russian team but this deficiency does not make this book any less interesting or entertaining.
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