1990 Goodwill Games: Kennewick Takes Part in Sports History
The Goodwill Games were born out of Cold War hostilities between the United States and the U.S.S.R.
The United States, joined by 65 other countries, boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. This was in response to the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets. Not to be outdone, the U.S.S.R. responded by refusing to participate in the 1984 Summer Olympics when they came to Los Angeles. However, both countries did participate in the 1980 Winter Olympics in New York, made famous by the United States men's team beating the heavily-favored U.S.S.R. in the "Miracle on Ice." This win remains the United States' most recent gold medal in ice hockey.
Ted Turner, the founder of CNN and TBS, created the Goodwill Games and the first competition was held in 1986 in Moscow. Think of it as an expensive "Hey, can't we all get along?" Four years later, Goodwill Games II came to Seattle. When a city hosts an event like the Olympics, billions of dollars are injected into the host city to build additional facilities for the various competitions. The Goodwill Games frankly didn't have "build a bunch of million-dollar facilities just to tear them back down" money. They had to work with what was there.
Negotiations were made with the Kingdome to host gymnastics and ice hockey but the Mariners' schedule made that pretty much impossible. As a result, cities across Washington got to host various events. Tacoma received gymnastics and split figure skating and ice hockey with Kennewick. The Tri-Cities had only recently opened their shiny, new ice hockey arena in 1988 when they welcomed the Tri-City Americans to town. The Tri-Cities Coliseum would host all ice hockey games outside of the tournament playoffs. According to an old email thread from 1990, NHL players were banned from participating. However, several participants would later go on to play in the NHL, such as Hall of Famer Pavel Bure.
Even with the Goodwill Games attempting to mend bridges between the United States and Soviet Russia, they were still a center of controversy. In the Cold War era, Soviet hockey players were banned from playing in the NHL. You would think having an elite player representing your country at the game's biggest level would be a good thing, but that was not how the U.S.S.R. saw it. The night before the Goodwill Games were supposed to start, Sergei Federov defected to join the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL. Let's just say the Russians were unhappy. Federov became one of the greatest hockey players ever, winning 3 Stanley Cups and becoming the first Russian-born player to log 1500 points in the NHL.
At the Tacoma Dome, the United States and Russia would once again play for gold, with Team USA losing in a shootout. Overall, the United States would win 60 gold medals at the 1990 Goodwill Games, trailing only Russia.
Unfortunately, the games were not profitable (1990's event caused Turner to lose $44 million) and didn't perform well in the television ratings even with speeches from former President Reagan, then-President George H. W. Bush, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. The 2001 Goodwill Games would be the final iteration of the event. I'm only disappointed I wasn't even born yet because an international hockey tournament in Tri-Cities would have been a thrill to see.