I’ve inherited a bunch of sports memorabilia from family and friends, plus I spent most of the money I made from lawn mowing during my adolescence on trading cards. I’ve had some time to dig through some of the stuff I found pretty interesting, including my latest find: The United States Ice Hockey Team’s press kit, sent to media ahead of the 1984 Winter Olympics.
There’s currently a lot of buzz surrounding the 1992 United States men’s Olympic Basketball team. The “Dream Team” recaptured what American glory looked like similar to the way the 1980’s “Miracle on Ice” team rebirthed a nation. While 12 years apart, the two iconic sporting events are highlighted in most American history textbooks.
“1984 Winter Olympics?” I thought to myself. Obviously, everyone knows what happened during the 1980’s Winter Olympics in Like Placid, but no one, including myself, ever thought about how the team defended its gold medal from four years earlier. I knew there had to be high expectations for the team.
Let’s start with a fact: 27 players, with an average age of 20.7, were named to the 1984 United States Ice Hockey Team, the youngest team ever assembled in an Olympic year. Only two players from the 1980’s team were rostered – John Harrington and Phil Verchota. The team included three players with one year of high school remaining – Dave Jensen, Al Lafrate and Ed Olczyk. The team was once again full of a bunch of kids from Boston (seven) and Minnesota (nine).
In preparation of the XIV Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslovia, Team USA played approximately 65 games against international and domestic competition. Team USA named the Met Center (RIP) as its official home ice and hosted 12 games leading to the Olympic games in February.
There was no Herb Brooks, he was replaced by couch Lou Vairo who had ties with the 1980 Gold Medal Team as a technical advisor and scout. There was no Mark Johnson. Ed Olzyck was the high school hotshot getting ready to make a name for himself. And there was no Craig Patrick. An eager and insightful Doug Woog stepped up to the plate as the assistant coach of the 1984 team, just one year before starting his head coaching career at the University of Minnesota. The South St. Paul native was the head coach of South St. Paul High School, a perennial Minnesota hockey powerhouse at the time, for the past six years.
How did the team do?
Beginning Aug. 22, the team engaged in a grueling schedule of exhibition games that resulted in a respectable 39-18-8 record. Once the Olympics began, the Team of Great Expectations faded immediately. At the Olympics, the young, but inexperienced U.S. team lost it’s opening game to Canada, 4-2 and the second game to Czechoslovakia 4-1. The U.S. defeated Poland 7-4 to capture a seventh-place finish. The Americans finished the Winter Games with a 2-2-2 record. The young “Diaper Line” of Pat Lofantaine, Ed Olczyk and Dave Jensen paced the team in scoring.
The Soviet Union got its revenge and won the Olympic title in ’84 by virtue of its 3-0-0 record. In games against Czechoslovakia, Sweden and Canada, the Soviets outscored their opponents 16-1.