Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type




Director of Thesis

David Snyder

Second Reader

Richard Southall


Although the 1980 Miracle on Ice has been thoroughly examined from both the American and Soviet viewpoints, these studies set the game upon a pedestal of its own, a one-off incident that persists in American sports memory today because of its improbability and the subsequent public reaction. However, hockey played a role in Cold War tensions long before the Miracle and exemplified international dynamics and tensions on multiple levels. Through a review of existing literature, this thesis holistically examines the sport of ice hockey as a microcosm of the Cold War. Differences between communism and capitalism produced differences in the organization and play of hockey between the Soviet Union and North America. Moreover, Soviet propagandists took advantage of differing attitudes towards amateurism and capitalist exploitation of sport in order to denigrate the North American game and praise their own. Furthermore, smaller states such as Canada and Czechoslovakia were also able to leverage their substantial hockey programs in order to assert some modicum of independence from their respective superpowers. While many of these differences faded after the end of the Cold War allowed freer and easier exchange of ideas and practices, notably equalizing the playing field, the resumption of US-Russia tensions as well as increasing pressure for American athletes to use their platforms to voice political views mean that lessons learned during the Cold War regarding the politicization of sport are still relevant today.

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