Miracle on Ice: The story of the 1980 US Hockey team

US Ice Hockey 1980
As soon as the final hooter was blown, an American dream was fulfilled

The name ‘Miracle on Ice’ was given to the greatest sporting moment that took place in the city of New York at Lake Placid in 1980. The United States National team which was made up of amateur and collegiate players defeated the number one seeded Soviet Union National team in the semi-final of the 1980 New York Winter Games.

The United States National Ice Hockey team were seeded 7th in a 12-team tournament at the 1980 Winter Olympics Games while the Soviet National team were seeded 1st and were the favorite to win the Gold medal, which would have been their 7th Gold medal in their last 8 Olympics.

The American Team

The average age of the United States ice hockey team was just 21 years, thus making them the youngest American team to have ever represented the nation at the Winter Games. They were also the youngest of all the teams that were taking part in the tournament that year.

The United States head coach at the time, Herb Brooks conducted the try-outs at Colorado Springs in the summer of 1979. In the end, only 20 young players made it to the final team which will carry the hopes of all of the United States population.

Out of those 20 players, Buzz Schnieder was the only one left from the 1976 United States Olympic squad, 9 players came for University of Minnesota and had earlier played under head coach Brooks at the University and 4 players came from Boston University. Boston and Minnesota were like arch-rivals at that time in college-level ice hockey and the hostility carried over to the Olympic squad for the initial few months.

The American Dream

The Americans were grouped with the likes of Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Norway, Romania and West Germany. They tied their first game against Sweden 1-1 before the young group of players exceeded all expectations when they won their second group match against the contenders for the Silver medal Czechoslovakia 7-3. They went on to win all their remaining group matches against Norway, Romania and West Germany.

The day before the match, columnist Dave Anderson wrote in the New York Times

"Unless the ice melts, or unless the United States team or another team performs a MIRACLE, as did the American squad in 1960, the Russians are expected to easily win the Olympic gold medal for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments."

The field House was jam-packed to its highest capacity of 8,500 and the US flags were waved by the home fans. Just before the match, head coach Brooks read his players a statement he had written out on a piece of paper, telling them that "You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours."

Only a miracle could have helped the team to win the match

‘Miracle on Ice’

As in the previous games, the U.S. team fell behind early as Vladamir Krutov deflected a slap shot by Alexei Kasatonov past U.S. goaltender Jim Craig at the 9:12 mark to give the Soviets a 1–0 lead. The young guns of the United States fought back to tie the game 1-1 through a Buzz Schnieder goal, but the Soviets took the lead again through a Sergei Makarov goal at the 17:34 mark. However, United States again scored the equalising goal in the last few seconds of the 1st period to tie the game 2-2 at the end of 1st period.

The Soviets dominated play in the second period, bombarding the American goal, but scored only once, on a power play goal by Alexsandr Maltsev 2:18 into play. At the end of the 2nd period, the Soviets led 3-2.

The Americans started to put pressure on the Soviet Union’s defence line in search for that equalising goal. It came from the stick of Johnson who fired off a shot that went under Myshkin and into the net at the 8:39 mark and tying the game at 3 goals each.

Eruzione, who had just come onto the ice, fired a shot past Myshkin and thus giving the Americans lead for the first time in the match. Instead of going into a defensive crouch, the United States players continued to play offense, even getting off a few more shots on goal.

The crowd began to count down the seconds left as Sportscaster AL Michaels, who was calling the game on ABC, picked up on the countdown in his broadcast, and delivered his famous call:

“11 seconds, you've got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles?! YES!!!”

The victory was voted the greatest sports moment of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated as well as in 2004, ESPN declared the Miracle on Ice to be the top sports headline moment, and game of the period 1979–2004.

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