A Detroit Hockey Tale: Fire in their Hearts & Ice in their Veins

By: Amber Ogden | February 23, 2018

The end of the Winter Games is near as Sunday, February 25th marks the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics. With Women’s cross country, figure skating, curling and even snowboarding still on the schedule, possibly the most exciting game to watch is Men’s Ice Hockey. The winner will take home the gold on February 24th (check local listings for times.) but don’t worry if you can’t catch it live on Saturday, the replay will be televised on Sunday.

You’re probably asking why this is important to Chevy in the D since there doesn’t seem to be a strong local connection. But there is a connection. A very cool connection. Many hockey fans already know about the Miracle On Ice, but for those of you who don’t, check this out: Back in the 1980 Olympic Winter Games, the US Hockey Team took on the former Soviet Union in Lake Placid, New York. Even though the former Soviet Union was highly favored to win, the US fought back and gave us maybe one of the most defining underdog victories in Olympic sports!

For those of you who do follow hockey, did you know that Viacheslav (Slava) Fetisov, a young player for the Russian team in 1980 went on to play for our local hockey team!? He was instrumental in helping  Detroit win back to back Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998. He was also one of 5 players who have lovingly come to be known as The Russian Five.

Back in the 90’s, The Russian Five was an unstoppable force in professional hockey. They were feared, revered and loved all in the same breath, and they had quite a run…and quite a story. From the highest highs of winning the Stanley Cup to the lowest lows of career ending and life threatening car crashes, The Russian Five saw it all. Filmmaker Joshua Riehl wanted to dive deeper into their story, and so he did.  His documentary, titled The Russian Five has recently been announced as the opening night film for the Fifth Annual Freep Film Festival. Tickets are $20 general admission, which includes pop and popcorn, or $50 for VIP, which includes admission to a pre-film party with drinks and food (including Mexican, soul, Greek and coney stations). Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Feb. 23 and can be purchased at livenation.com or the Fillmore Detroit box office. 

Unfortunately, the Men’s US Hockey team was eliminated this week as the Czech Republic bested them with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals. However, the Women’s Hockey team is bringing home the Gold on the 38th anniversary of the 1980 Miracle on Ice victory!  While this year’s men’s team did not enjoy a similar victory, they did not go down without a fight. A few local connections to this year’s US Hockey team fought right along with them! Jordan Greenway, the first African-American to play hockey for Team USA in the Olympics trained in Ann Arbor at the National Team Development Program. He has 18 goals and 47 assists in 89 career games for Boston University, including five game-winning goals. Chad Billins was born in Michigan and he played in 10 games for Calgary in 2013-14, recording three assists. Billins now plays for Linköping HC in the Swedish League.

A few other mentionable Michigan made players are Erik Gustafsson who is an ex-Northern Michigan University standout and is currently playing for Chicago. He is originally from Sweden.  Chad Kolarik is a Wolverine!  The USA Hockey forward was a second-team All-American during his senior season with the Wolverines (2007-08).

Ok, hockey may not be your thing and that’s ok because there are other Olympic winter sports you can play locally. Like curling! You can practice at Detroit Curling Club located at 1615 E. Lewiston in Ferndale.  You can even become a trained ice skater at The Detroit Skating Club located at 888 Denison Ct in  Bloomfield Hills.