Before the names of NHL all-stars studded Olympic rosters, the international hockey event belonged to amateurs. Some of the best university and minor-hockey players in the country set aside their collegiate and team allegiances for a chance to be colleagues on the US Ice Hockey Team and to don the red, white and blue uniform of their homeland.
That Olympic dream once belonged to Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell). In the 1960s he practiced with the national squad. Then days before the players left for the Games, he was the last man cut from the final list. Now 20 years later, the gruff individualist has another shot at glory as the recently hired national ice hockey coach.
Disregarding the sideline wrangling and consultations of the coaching committee, Herb firmly insists on handpicking his own team without board input. He knows their biggest competition will be the unbeatable reigning Russians and what he needs is gifted team players rather than specific superstars. He wants skaters willing to trade in their current game skills and relearn the strategy of hockey played by the Soviet powerhouse.
Putting in long hours on the ice, the coach attacks his assignment like a man possessed. Incessantly pushing the boys to up their level of play, he causes some concern with his assistant coach Craig Patrick (Noah Emmerich) and the trainer. His single-mindedness also strains his relationship at home with his wife Patti (Patricia Clarkson). But he knows his team has only one chance to prove itself in the Olympic arena.
While Miracle is about the unexpected heroes of the Lake Placid games, a good portion of the storyline focuses on the life of Herb Brooks a fitting tribute to the man who died on August 11, 2003 in a single car accident in Minnesota. His plucky style of coaching and unremitting demands on his players etched a permanent mark in athletic history--the event that was voted Sports Illustrated's single greatest sports moment of the 20th century.
For hockey enthusiasts too young to remember the actual event, this film's portrayal of beer guzzling young adults, some mild locker room banter and profanities, as well as hard on-ice hits may be the biggest concerns. The movie takes a while to warm up but once the puck is dropped on center ice, there's plenty of action staged by authentic hockey players including former NHL athletes Sasha Lakovic, Bill Ranford, Todd Harkins, Mike MacWilliam and Randy Heath.
During an era when Americans were bombarded with long gas lines, the hostage crisis and the after effects of the Vietnam War, there seemed little to be optimistic about until this seventh seeded team of young men hit the ice in New York and begat a miracle.