Freedom To Win: A Cold War Story of the Courageous Hockey Team That Fought the Soviets for the Soul of Its People—and Olympic Gold

Pegasus. Jul. 2023. 336p. ISBN 9781639363513. $28.95. SPORTS
Many readers will be familiar with the time in Eastern Europe’s history centered around the Prague Spring, but fewer will know how hockey played a part in the Czechoslovakian people’s resilience. Scheiner (political science, Univ. of California, Davis; Democracy Without Competition in Japan) deftly interweaves the story of Czechs and Slovaks forming a national hockey team, anchored by brothers Jiří and Jaroslav Holík and their childhood friend Jan Suchý, with that of the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia and its people’s struggles under Communist leadership. Like Wayne Coffey’s The Boys of Winter did for the Miracle on Ice, Scheiner provides a detailed buildup to the storied 1969 World Championship games against the Soviet team. But that’s just half of the book. The second half follows Czechoslovakia’s continued political and social upheaval in the ’70s and ’80s to the birth of the Czech Republic. The book also depicts the ups and downs of the Holík family and the hockey program that would grow to produce some of the most recognized names in the National Hockey League.
VERDICT Much more than a book about hockey. Will appeal to hockey fans and readers interested in the relationship between sports and patriotism.
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