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Team USA Trains Hard for Another `Miracle on Ice'

IF prepping a hockey team for the Olympics was ever a simple task, it isn't anymore, certainly not in the United States. Here, many keep hoping for a repeat of 1980's ``Miracle on Ice'' - or at least a medal of some variety.

Team USA began its run-up to next month's Olympic tournament last August. They played in Finland, Germany, Norway, and Russia, while also crisscrossing the US and even journeying to Alaska. Their record against a crazy quilt of opponents, including college, professional, and national teams, is 36-15-5

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Now the squad is in the midst of a four-game series with Team Canada, which it defeated Tuesday night, 5-4, in Toronto. (The US leads the series, 3-0. It concludes Saturday in Uniondale, N.Y.)

US coach Tim Taylor, who left Yale University to assume his present post, says that Olympic teams are busy ``loading up'' with whatever talented players become available.

Team Canada, for example, recently added Paul Kariya, the sensational scorer who led the University of Maine to the US college championship last year and became the first freshman ever to receive the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, presented annually to the top college player in the US. Kariya dropped off the University of Maine team this season after 12 games. In the US-Canada series he has skated against six former Black Bear teammates.

Taylor had hoped to add Derek Plante of the National Hockey League's Buffalo Sabres to the American roster. In Taylor's view, the Sabres made a ``big mistake'' by not facilitating Plante's Olympic participation. ``He could have been a national hero,'' Taylor says.

Lesson from `Joe Cool'

Although quarterback Joe Montana was not able to lift his new team, the Kansas City Chiefs, into the Super Bowl, many people continue to sing his praises. One observation heard with regularity is that Joe Cool, as some have taken to calling him, never loses his cool. Specifically, he doesn't bark at receivers for dropping passes, a kindness that is often repaid with big catches later.

There's probably a good lesson to be learned here about how a quarterback, or any leader, can enhance collective effort by eliminating group friction. Along the same lines, Bill Walsh, Montana's former coach with the San Francisco 49ers, told New York Times columnist Dave Anderson that Montana's ``genius is in the serenity that surrounds his play.''

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Deja vu for UCLA basketball

UCLA, once king of the college basketball realm, has reascended the throne, even if only momentarily (no team has been able to hold the No. 1 ranking for long this season). Some might assume this is the first time UCLA has been top-ranked since the John Wooden glory years, but in fact the Bruins slipped into the catbird seat briefly under Larry Farmer in 1983.

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