If you’re looking for a thrilling nonfiction read to chase the chill on a winter’s day or night, you might try Wayne Coffey’s The Boys of Winter, subtitled “the untold story of a coach, a dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.” This well written and meticulously researched book looks back at one of the greatest moments of twentieth-century sports history, the improbable victory of the U.S. hockey team over the Soviet Union, assessing the meaning of the triumph and examining the paths taken by the players and coaches on both sides since 1980. Coffey never descends into melodrama, which would have been easy to do given the situation, but captures the details and backstories that went unreported in the frenzy. Coach Herb Brooks, portrayed as an obstinate, aloof, savvy genius, molded a roster of 20 amateur, mostly college-age young men into a team notable for its grit, creativity and an ethic of teamwork. The Soviet team is humanized, as we learn how they scrounged for Band-Aids and avoided using slap shots because a shortage of quality hockey sticks in the Soviet Union meant they couldn't risk breaking them, details which, if revealed at the time, would have implied a weakness in the Soviet regime. Coffey's saga carries us back to a more innocent Olympics era, when doping and judging scandals were not everyday occurrences (except on the East German women’s swim team) and when there were no multi-millionaire professionals playing on an overhyped "dream team."
For a look at a different sport involving an ice rink and skates, try Figure Skating: a history by James R. Hines. Hines includes profiles of many individual skaters, including World and Olympic champions, all of whom, in Dick Button's words, "left the sport better because they were in it." In this volume, you will learn how the jumps got their names like Triple Salchow and Double Axel; read the saga of the woman who broke into the previously all-male World Championships in 1902; and find out the lesser-known details of the tale of Sonja Henie, who figure-skated her way onto the silver screen. Beyond the contributions of individual skaters, Figure Skating also examines the evolution of the sport over time and the judging scandals that have marred recent competitions. Hines takes a look at the rise of ice shows and discusses social, political, and ethical concerns that have affected the sport. You can also peruse the photo gallery for your favorite World and Olympic champion, complete through 2005.
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