A full eight years before the Miracle on Ice, the US Olympic hockey team pulled off one of the most miraculous accomplishments in international hockey history. The 1972 US team stunned the hockey world by garnering a silver medal at the Winter Games in Japan.
The silver medal championship was somewhat anti-climatic by today's gold-medal showdown standards. Back then the order of finish was determined by your win-loss record and your goals for and against. After upsetting the Czechoslovakians, Team USA sat in the arena in their casual wear awaiting the outcome of the Russia-Czechoslovakian game. When the Russians won, as expected, the Americans knew they had clinched a very unexpected silver medal, the only medal taken home by American males in the Sapporo games.
The story is even more fascinating when you learn of the military background many of these players were drafted into before the games, including a few who wandered the jungles of Vietnam. Then there was the surprising camaraderie between the Soviet and American players, despite the Cold War's icy grip. And then there's the story of coach Murray Williamson, perhaps as an important a coach in US hockey history as there is, though he gets no credit a la Herb Brooks or Bob Johnson.
Twin brothers Tom and Jerry Caraccioli have chronicled this fascinating saga in their new book, Striking Silver: The Untold Story of America's Forgotten Hockey Team from Sports Publishing L.L.C. Although as goalie Peter Sears suggests, this is the team that no one knew about to begin with.
After laying the ground work, the Caracciolis embarked on a series of interviews with members of the forgotten team, sharing stories of personal triumph and sacrifice. While the interviews don't necessarily flow together as nicely as you would hope, they make for great short reads.
Stars like Mark Howe, Robbie Ftorek, Henry Boucha, Tim Sheehy and Lefty Curran share their stories as do the long forgotten about players like Huffer Christiansen, Daddy Nas Naslund Tom Mellor and Charlie Brown.
The success of the 1972 team was largely ignored due to sparse television coverage by NBC thanks to severe time zone differences. Any recognition earned was further pushed into obscurity when the Americans pulled off the Miracle On Ice in 1980. The Caracciolis examine how 1972 laid the groundwork for success in 1980 and the growth of American hockey beyond.
Striking Silver was one of the most overlooked books in 2006-07. It is truly worth a read. It's not totally about hockey, but about working hard and having dreams come true.