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RIP Vladimir Krutov

Time has a way of extracting emotion from memories. The
more removed
we are from the memory the more detail we forget. Our
senses add so
much to recall and these are the very things that
dissipate when
observed through the finite prism of time. The soul is so
much more
than a recording devise but time has a way of creating
issues as well. What was burned into our memory in 1980
may not be
relevant in 2012 and like an old cassette in an mp3-
player, becomes

Don’t believe me? Keep reading.

I was 17-years-old when I first saw Vladimir Krutov play.
He was in
Lake Placid, New York, competing in the 1980 Winter
Olympics. He was
not the player that he would eventually become but he wore
red and
had CCCP written in white across the front of his sweater.

He was a communist. And he played for the Soviet Union’s
Team. I thought being a communist and playing for CCCP was
definition of evil.

Although he didn’t have the reputation, he was one of the
wingers in the world. Krutov would eventually play with
Igor Larionov and Sergei Makarov and form one of the most
scoring lines the world of hockey had ever seen. They were
the KLM Line.

On a Friday, February 22, of 1980 I was preparing to watch
the US
Hockey Team compete against the Soviets in a medal-round
game at
Lake Placid. Growing up in Buffalo, New York made me an
avid hockey
fan by proxy. The Buffalo Sabres were as popular as the
Bills and although I couldn’t skate (weak ankles) there
was nothing
other than death that would have kept me from planting
myself in
front of a television. Hockey was awesome and the Soviet
Union was

Vladimir Krutov scored the first goal of the game.

The United States would come back three times in this game
and we
all know the rest of the story: The Miracle on Ice. A team
amateur and college hockey players of US descent came from
three different times to finally win the game 4-3, beating
the most
dominant team, in any sport, the world has ever known.

The Soviet Hockey team had won nearly every world
championship and
Olympic Tournament since 1954 and they had just lost to a
bunch of
rag-tag amateurs who dared to believe.

This had a profound impact on my psyche.

That very night my brother Craig was preparing for the NFL
His agent said he could be drafted as high as the third-
round, but
we were all filled with doubt as to what would happen
after that;
this was the National Football League, after all. Kids
that you
knew, especially your brother, didn’t get drafted and go
on to play
in the NFL. It might happen for Mike Webster, Drew
Pearson, Bobby
Bell and Mel Renfroe, but it definitely did not happen to
brother. A scholarship to Syracuse University was one
thing but
playing professional football didn’t happen to kids that
grew up on
dead end streets that emptied into a gravel pit. Being a
son of a
truck-driver carried its own reality.

Vladimir Krutov’s goal, giving the Soviets a 1-0 lead,
these realities. I was crushed not only by teenage
immaturity but by
how predictable life truly was. My shoulders slumped, I
pushed my
back against the couch with my chin on my chest.

What was I thinking? Did I really believe Team USA was
going to beat
CCCP? Did I truly think that a bunch of kids could compete
and beat
the likes of this Vladimir Krutov guy? Krutov was a
Soviet, part of
the CCP, the Red Army was strong — a superpower — and
the strong
and privileged prospered in this world. Kids that grew up
shoes three-sizes too big and “I Dig Earth” t-shirts
didn’t beat the
Red Army!

Did I really believe Craig was going to go pro and help my
and father financially?

That goal by Vladimir Krutov was the last time I allowed
myself to
believe that dreams couldn’t or didn’t happen. The kids at
Placid never quit and there was a lesson to be learned
from their

February 23, 1980 was somehow different from the previous
day. The
days following The Miracle on Ice included Craig getting
drafted by
the Pittsburgh Steelers and playing 12 years in the NFL. I
a college scholarship to play at West Virginia University
and played
professionally as well. My younger brother Dale was better
than both
of us put together and received a scholarship to my alma

Wednesday, Vladimir Krutov died in a hospital in Moscow.

And this is what poured out of me. All apologies.