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Men's Olympic hockey team brings back memories of 1980 'Miracle on Ice' team

The 2022 roster is made up of mostly college students, much like it was back in 1980 when a group of 20 American college players shocked the world and won gold.
Credit: KARE-11

MINNESOTA, USA — It's hard to believe that 41 years have passed since the 1980 Miracle on Ice.

We know it as the legendary moment in American hockey when a group of young college players shocked the world and won gold. As we look ahead to the upcoming Winter Games, it's hard to ignore some of the striking similarities this year's team bears with that historic team.

Minnesota hockey legend Lou Nanne played a role in putting that 1980 team together. In some ways, he says this new 2022 team has an even greater challenge ahead of them.

"[In] 1980 you got a team in June; you had six months. They played 60 games and they were playing together for six months and they got to know one another and they had much more time to prepare,” Nanne said.

"When you're playing together for 60 games or so, it's different than playing together for three days or four days and then starting a tournament."

And there will be a familiar foe in these Olympics.

Like in 1980, Nanne feels the Russian team will be the team to beat in this tournament, but they're not unbeatable like they were back then.

"I'd have to say the Russian team would be the favorite because they do have a lot of guys playing in their top pro league, which is the KHL, which will be on that team. The Russians do have a lot of guys with experience,” Nanne said.

Experience will once again be the big divider between the Russians and the Americans.

Back in 1980, all 20 players on the roster were college players — 12 of them had ties to Minnesota.

But this time around, there's more experience on the roster.

Out of 25 players, 15 are college students, the rest have hopped around the minors and European leagues and some have played a few games in the NHL.

And again, Minnesota is well represented with nine players who either played college here or grew up here.

"I don't think it's going to be a physical team. I think it's going to be more a speed and puck handling and hopefully good goaltending.”

Nanne says that will be the key to a deep run in the tournament this year.

The Olympic Games use a bigger sheet of ice than most college and professional leagues, so the team with the best skaters and best endurance will likely win.

"When you have skill and you have speed, and that's what they have on the team, they'll make it interesting,” Nanne said.

And like 1980, Americans today could use a bright spot in their lives, a team to rally behind, and a way to bring people together.

"You're going to see right away people are going to be interested and watching the Olympic team play. It's going to be interesting right off the bat and hopefully they do get on a good run. They just gotta give it a good shot and hopefully things turn out really well for them."

The men's Olympic team will play its first game on Feb. 10 against China.

The final roster was announced Jan. 13.

The team will be together less than a month before the games start.

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