The 1980 U.S. Mens Ice Hockey Team And Their Miracle on Ice
There have been many memorable moments in Winter Olympics history, but none as emotional as the miracle on ice that occurred during the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York. The United States hockey team won the gold medal that year beating out the heavy favorite Soviet team considered the best ice hockey team in the world at the time.
The U.S. men's ice hockey team was mostly made up of collegiate players and not expected to advance beyond group play. The Soviet Union on the other hand, had won the ice hockey gold medal in 1956 and every year since 1964. Although they were classified as amateur players, the Soviet government allowed them to play professionally in a well-developed league with world class training facilities. Their Olympic squad consisted of legendary players in world ice hockey as well as talented young players. The rivalry between the U.S. and Soviet team only mirrored the political and military tension that existed at the time between these two countries because of the Cold War.
During the Olympic group play, the Americans surprised everyone by advancing to the medal round by earning a 2-2 draw against the favored Swedish team, beating out Czechoslovakia, Norway, Romania, and West Germany. In the other group, the Soviets pounced on their opposition knocking off Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Finland, and Canada, qualifying easily into the next round.
According to the media the day before the match, unless a miracle happened, the Russians were expected to win the Olympic gold medal yet again. The Soviet coach prepared his players for the medal round by resting most of his best players and letting them study plays rather than practice on the ice. The American coach, Herb Brooks, was tougher on his players continuing hard practices and not letting up on drills.
In front of a packed home crowd audience waving American flags, the first period ended with the game tied 2-2. The Soviets dominated play in the second, outshooting the Americans 12-2, but only managed to score one goal leading 3-2 after two periods. Both teams stepped up their aggressiveness in the third period as Mark Johnson fired the puck into the net tying the game 3-3. Mike Eruzione's goal with 10 minutes left gave Team USA a 4-3 lead. The Soviets were in panic mode, attacking furiously and shooting wildly. Unable to score against goalie Jim Craig, the clock ticked down to the final seconds, sending the U.S. players running all over the ice celebrating their incredible victory.
Team USA went on to win the gold medal when they defeated Finland in their last match. The Soviets settled for the silver medal after they beat Sweden in their final game. In 1999, Sports Illustrated named the "Miracle on Ice" the Top Sports Moment of the 20th Century. Of the 20 players on Team USA, 13 went on to play in the NHL. Defenseman Ken Morrow also won the Stanley Cup in 1980 as a member of the New York Islanders, making him the first hockey player to win an Olympic gold medal and Stanley Cup in the same year.