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Good US hockey win, but no Miracle on Ice

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — (AP) — The ice at Canada's Hockey Place had barely been cleared, and Jim Craig was already offering a special.

Had to, because big U.S. hockey wins only come around so often. Big anniversaries, too.

So the tweet went out advertising his wares. Thirty years after the Miracle on Ice and 30 minutes after the U.S. beat Canada, the sale was on.

A bit unseemly, perhaps. But how often can you get $30 off a "Miracle" movie poster signed by the goalie who was behind the mask?

Craig wasn't saying how many he had sold in the wake of what surely was the biggest win by a U.S. hockey team since a group of young American college players shocked the mighty Soviet team 30 years ago Monday. He's got a Web site set up hawking other stuff, too, including a signed copy of the goalie mask he wore at Lake Placid.

Three decades later, the gift keeps giving for Craig, who also makes motivational speeches to corporate types wanting to rally around their own teams. He and captain Mike Eruzione were the faces of the team then, and they're still enjoying the fruits of their labor.

"Not a day goes by when someone doesn't ask me about it," Craig said.

But these are different times. And these Olympics have different players.

So don't bother putting the kids on your lap and telling them stories about Sunday night's U.S. hockey win over Canada. Don't worry about putting the ticket to the game in your safe deposit box, either.

Despite the initial shock and semi-hysteria, it's hardly 1980 all over again.

No one could have imagined a bunch of kids beating the feared Soviets then. But it's not all that hard to imagine now: a collection of well-paid NHL players from one country beating a collection of well-paid NHL players from another.

That's basically what happened Sunday night, much to the dismay of Canadians everywhere. If the home team doesn't rebound and win the gold medal, the loss will put a stain on their Olympics and be remembered among the darker moments in the country's proud hockey history.

But Brian Rafalski isn't going to become a household name because he scored two goals. Goalie Ryan Miller won't be earning spending money hawking signed memorabilia in 2040 because he made 42 saves.

A once-in-a-lifetime atmosphere, perhaps. Certainly a viewing spectacle and the most watched hockey game ever in a hockey-mad country.

But a once-in-a-lifetime game? No.

Motivation back then was winning one for the home team at a time the country was mired in an economic slump and wrestling with a hostage crisis in Iran. The Cold War was still on, and the Olympics were the one place you could settle a score without rattling the nuclear cage.

Motivation in this game was more subtle. The fear of being embarrassed by fellow NHL players was probably enough for the U.S.

This is a team that had played exactly two games together, so it's not as if they're blood brothers.

"Motivation for me is looking across the ice and seeing a team wearing a different jersey," said Chris Drury, who scored a goal in the Americans' 5-3 victory.

Still, there were the inevitable comparisons of the two games, if only because the latest win was an Olympic moment that came almost 30 years to the day the Americans beat the team that couldn't be beaten. Craig himself couldn't help thinking about that as he sat in the stands sipping a hot chocolate and watching Miller fend off shot after shot in the final minutes to preserve a win — just as Craig had done against the Soviets.

"It brought back a lot of great memories," he said.

Craig can share those memories in Vancouver. Eruzione, who scored the winning goal in Lake Placid, is here. So is the Soviet goalie, Vladislav Tretiak, the general manager of the Russian team. Al Michaels is broadcasting for NBC, still linked forever to the famous call, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"

And Mark Johnson, who scored two goals against the Soviets, marked the 30th anniversary by coaching the U.S. women's hockey team to a 9-1 win over Sweden and a berth in the gold-medal game.

Craig was working, too. He gave a speech to an insurance company and watched as his likeness was unveiled on an Olympic mural at USA House.

Like every other day of his life, he answered questions about that one defining moment.

"I think the late Jim McKay said that it was like a high school football team beating the Pittsburgh Steelers," he said. "But when you're young you don't know any better. You don't know you can't accomplish things."

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Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org