40 years ago USA Men’s Hockey was about to play a game nobody thought they would win. Well, not everybody. The coaches, players, and probably their mothers believed in them. The roster was made up almost entirely of college kids who were about to achieve the greatest upset in sports history.
Coach Herb Brooks was leading four players from Boston University, two from Bowling Green, nine from Minnesota, two from Minnesota Duluth, two from Wisconsin, and one from North Dakota. This U.S. team was ranked 7th out of 12 teams in the tournament.
They were going to be competing against the incredibly talented USSR team, who had won five of the previous six Winter Olympic Games. They were favored to take home Gold in Lake Placid, New York as well. The Soviet team was loaded with high end professional players who had developed incredible team chemistry. They were ranked 1st in the tournament.
Both the USA and USSR teams would advance from the first round into the medal round. They would battle in the first contest of the round on February 22nd, 1980. The US would have the incredible pressure and thrill of playing a home game in the Olympics.
The game was seen by America on tape delay, since the Soviets did not want the game to start at 4 am in Moscow Russia. Once the puck was dropped, the Soviets played their game. They were up 2-1 as the 1st period was winding down.
The US then made a huge momentum swing just before the 1st intermission. After a bomb on net from center ice by Dave Christian, the Soviet’s goalie Vladislav Tretiak missed played the rebound. Mark Johnson potted the loose puck with 1 second to go in the period, tying the game at 2. The Soviet coach Viktor Tikhoniv pulled Tretiak at the intermission, which he would later call, “the biggest mistake of my career.”
With Vladimir Myshkin between the pipes for the Soviets they dominated play in the 2nd. They out shot the Americans 12-2, but could only muster one score past USA goalie Jim Craig. Aleksandar Maltsev’s power play goal was the only score of the period by either team.
In the 3rd, the Americans started their comeback. Mark Johnson scored again, this time off the rush towards the end of a U.S. power play. The score was tied at three with just over 11 minutes to go.
Then Mike Eruzione, team USA’s Captain, would write his name into America’s consciousness. With exactly 10 minutes to go, Eruzione snapped a shot into the back of the net giving the Americans a 4-3 lead.
Trailing for the first time, the Soviets pressured the US in their zone. However, they would never solve Jim Craig and pot the equalizer. As the crowd went into a frenzy in the waning moments, ABC broadcaster Al Michaels made the call of the century.
“11 seconds, you’ve got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow up to Silk. 5 seconds left in the game. Do you believe in Miracles!? Yes!”
As the Americans cleared the puck out of the zone with mere seconds remaining, the entire stadium went into a state of delirium and utter ecstasy. They did it. They actually beat the Soviets.
On Sunday, February 24th, the Americans would defeat Finland 4-2 to earn the Gold Medal on home soil.
This game and team has a story that America does not want to and will not forget. The film “Miracle” will continue to show their journey and triumph well after every player, coach, and fan who watched is gone. This was voted the best sports moment of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated in 1999.
This was a lot more than a singular hockey game. This showed what the country is capable of when a group of people work together, put their egos aside, and focus on achieving the same goal. While “The Miracle on Ice” turns 40, the moment of those players embracing on the ice will forever be frozen in time.
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