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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Miracle Worker Remembered

There is news one simply doesn't want to believe. The other morning on my way to work, when I heard that Herb Brooks, coach of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, had been killed in a car accident, I could think only that the report was a horrible mistake. Especially since on the previous night I had been reminiscing about my time in America and the National Hockey League -- my team of Soviet and Russian hockey veterans had been playing in Moscow against a squad led by the NHL star Jaromir Jagr.

That morning, my thoughts, like those of many Americans, I am sure, were underscored by the word "miracle," a word forever linked to Herb Brooks. Maybe a miracle would occur, and it would turn out that my old friend and rival didn't die on a Minnesota highway. Yes, I thought, we would definitely see each other again at the next Winter Olympics and exchange our usual barbs, no longer so upsetting to me, about that long-ago miracle on ice.

As for what happened in Lake Placid on Feb. 22, 1980, I once said that my teammates and I never thought that we could lose, we never allowed ourselves to even think that it could happen. That's why in America it was called a miracle. Because something like that happens only once in a lifetime.

There's no need to hide the fact that the triumph of an American team that was modest in all respects over the magnificent team of the Soviet Union was a shock to us. Many spoke of a chain of unfortunate coincidences, about bad luck. It was only years later -- when I was able to taste the bitter bread of being a coach myself -- that I fully understood how great Herb Brooks' achievement had been.

Herb was a magnificent tactician and strategist and truly earned a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame. He was ahead of his time, one of the first to prove that a modern coach is first of all a wonderful psychologist.

Last winter, fate brought me and Herb back together: the Olympic semifinal match in Salt Lake City. He had returned to lead the Americans; I coached the Russian team. Once again, I was not pleased with the result. Parting with Herb, I could only bitterly joke: "Get ready for revenge!" I can't believe there will never be a revenge match.

Vyacheslav Fetisov, a former defenseman for the Soviet national team, New Jersey Devils and Detroit Red Wings, heads the State Sports Committee. He contributed this comment to The New York Times.