SOCHI, Russia – Ben Brushoff and Tony Carlson walked into Bolshoy Ice Dome for the men's hockey game between the United States and Russia all decked out in stars and stripes. They didn't have much company.
Small pockets of American fans were sprinkled around the 12,000-seat arena Saturday for the marquee attraction of the Sochi Games to this point, but they were swallowed up by a sea of Russian fans that were clearly fired up to have the Americans on their turf 34 years after the Miracle On Ice.
"Outnumbered in numbers, but not outnumbered in spirit," Brushoff said as he marched to his seat. "As the underdogs here, we're going to cheer that much harder."
Brushoff and Carlson somehow scored tickets to the game as a capper to a two-week European adventure. They've seen several other events at the Olympics, but the two natives of hockey-mad Minnesota had this one on their bucket list.
"It is THE gold medal game without being a gold medal game," Brushoff said.
So much is different between this game and the one in 1980. Both sides feature professional players now and the Cold War has long since ended, taking some of the political tension out of the matchup. And this was a preliminary game and not a semifinal, so the stakes were much lower. Even though they were wearing enemy colors, the two friends said they were greeted warmly by their Russian hosts.
"They seem to welcome us in," Carlson said. "They want to get photos with us, actually."
Both are too young to remember the game in Lake Placid, widely considered the greatest upset in Olympic history. Now they'll have a story of their own to tell.
"We're at USA vs. Russia, IN Russia," Carlson said. "That's hard to beat."
— By Jon Krawczynski — Twitter http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski
Associated Press reporters are filing dispatches about happenings in and around Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. Follow AP journalists covering the Olympics on Twitter: http://apne.ws/1c3WMiu