The day when “the college students and the rejections of the minor leagues” achieved the “Miracle on ice”


A bottle of champagne was chilling in the locker room of the US Olympic hockey team on February 22, 1980.

The players did not open it. There was one game left to play on the road to gold.

On February 22, 1980, the United States Olympic hockey team achieved what is considered one of the most dramatic upheavals in Olympic history by beating the Soviet Union, 4-3, in the semifinals .

It was the “Miracle on Ice” in Lake Placid, NY

The Soviet Union had won gold in hockey at five of the previous six Olympic Winter Games. The United States defeated Finland on February 24, 4-2, and won the gold medal.

Ted Green of the Los Angeles Times wrote: “There was cheering in the press gallery and dancing in the streets. It wasn’t just a hockey game, it was an event. And what happened had to be seen to be believed.

The USA hockey team, made up of students and rejected minor league players, played the game of their young lives and beat the Soviet Union 4-3 in the opening game of the semi-finals Friday.

Green wrote: “Americans were Rocky for Russia’s Apollo Creed.”

ABC commentator Al Michaels said at the end of the game: “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”

Here’s more of what Green wrote about this spectacular moment in Olympic history:

“Now these young Americans, after beating the best hockey team in the world, can take gold at the Winter Olympics by also beating Finland in the final round on Sunday morning.

Finland tied Sweden 3-3 in the other semi-final game, so a victory on Sunday secures the Americans the gold. Now no other team can win their two matches in the medal round.

The Soviets and Swedes, who will face off in Sunday’s other match, can also claim the gold medal according to the standings which show the United States in the lead with three points to two each for the USSR and Sweden. and one for Finland.

But it is certain: Americans will leave here with more than their cowboy hats and Olympic pins. They will leave with a medal.

And none of these kids will soon forget the night they picked it up, as they did so in an extremely emotional game that ended with the players kissing and throwing sticks in the air while the Soviets stood grouped in the center of the ice, gazing impassively at this incredible scene.

Some of the same fans who threw flowers on the ice to greet the figure skaters on Thursday night threw American flags this time around.

This would have been the game of the Games regardless of politics, because the Soviets, who have hockey to a science, have won every Olympic gold in the sport since 1964. And now an unlikely group of students – who lost because of it. the same Soviet team, 10-3, in a tune-up game two weeks ago – was trying to take it away from them.

Americans were Rocky for Apollo Creed of Russia.

The fact that President Carter called for a US boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow due to the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan only added other political connotations – not that they are never needed when East meets West in sports.

This combination of Cinderella’s hockey history, spiced up by the politics that took emotions to a climax, made Friday’s game not only the most discussed event at these Olympics, but perhaps even the most talked about event at these Olympics. most moving Olympic confrontation since the Hungarians faced the Soviets in bloody water, polo match in 1956, the year when Soviet tanks burst into Budapest.

The Soviet-American basketball game at the Munich Olympics in 1972 – when they replayed the last three seconds several times until the Russians were right – ended in a stunning way. But this game did not receive as much accumulation as this hockey game.

Moreover, the two countries were in a period of detente in 1972. Now the Cold War seems to be heating up again.

The United States entered Friday’s game against the Big Red Machine as big underdogs, but the Americans more than stuck it out, even though the Soviets outscored them, 39-16.

And finally, after the Americans stayed in the game on Jim Craig’s dandy goalie, Team USA captain Mike Eruzione scored the game-winning goal with 10 minutes left on a 25-foot slap shot. who beat Vladimir Myshkin, the Soviets’ Alternate Goalkeeper.

Myshkin was sent in to replace Russia’s regular goalkeeper Vladislav Tertjak after American Mark Johnson scored a sensational goal with a second left in the first period, a goal that tied the United States at 2 -2. Tretjak, once considered the world’s greatest goalkeeper, hadn’t performed particularly well in this tournament, so Soviet coach Victor Tichonov pulled him out. It wasn’t as rare as you might think, as Tichonov juggles players almost as much as Sparky Anderson juggles pitchers.

Myshkin, anyway, didn’t have to do much in the middle of the game because the Soviets kept Craig busy, dotting him with 30 shots after two periods.

The team members were Jim Craig, Steve Janaszak, Bill Baker, Dave Christian, Ken Morrow, Jack O’Callahan, Mike Ramsey, Bob Suter, Neal Broten, Steve Christoff, Mike Eruzione, John Harrington, Mark Johnson, Rob McClanahan , Mark Pavelich, Buzz Schneider, Dave Silk, Eric Strobel, Phil Verchota and Mark Wells. The coach was Herb Brooks. Assistant coach was Craig Patrick.

FILE – In this file photo from February 22, 1980, the U.S. hockey team pounces on goalie Jim Craig after a 4-3 victory over the Soviets at the 1980 Olympics, as a flag flies from the Partisan crowd in Lake Placid, NY. AP photo, file)PA

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