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February 09, 2001|LARRY STEWART

What: "Do You Believe in Miracles? The Story of the 1980 U.S. Hockey Team"

Where: HBO, Saturday, 11:30 a.m.

You don't have to be a hockey fan, or even a sports fan, to appreciate this excellent one-hour documentary about the team that produced one of the great moments in sports.

This is more than just a sports documentary. It's also a period piece, touching on the Iranian hostage situation, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. gasoline crisis--and the general glumness hovering over the United States in late 1979 and early 1980.

The documentary made its debut Monday night, was shown again Thursday and has a number of other airings throughout the month, including Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Many Americans can recall exactly where they were on the evening of Feb. 22, 1980, when the U.S. team made up mostly of college students skated to a 4-3 victory over the mighty Soviet Union team at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. The game, played at 5 p.m. Eastern time, was shown by ABC three hours later in the East and six hours later in the West.

Al Michaels, who called the game for ABC and delivered the line, "Do you believe in miracles?" sets the stage.

"So here in this most bizarre and freakish circumstance," he says in the film, "you have a 5 o'clock game on a Friday, where people are filing into the building, in daylight, going to, in effect, a semi-matinee. Little would anybody know that it would be maybe the most memorable sports event they would ever attend."

The story begins with the 1979 tryouts for the U.S. team and builds to a crescendo that will give you chills and maybe even bring a tear. You will feel the U.S. players' emotions.

Included in the film are interviews with Soviet players, giving viewers a complete picture of the impact of the game.

The film also provides an understanding of U.S. Coach Herb Brooks and how he prepared his team. He initially was not popular with the players, who talked about "Herbie-isms" behind his back. One Herbie-ism was telling a player, "You're playing worse and worse every day, and right now you're playing like it's next month."

Barry Rosen, one of 52 Americans held in Iran for 444 days, says the State Department prepared a videotape "about what went on during the entire time we were taken hostage, ending with the Olympic hockey game. And I can tell you that all of us as hostages watched that and applauded more for that than for anything else."

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