Miracle on Ice
|Date||February 22, 1980|
|City||Lake Placid, New York, United States|
The "Miracle on Ice" is the name in American popular culture for a medal-round men's ice hockey game during the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York, on Friday, February 22. The United States team, made up of amateur and collegiate players and led by coach Herb Brooks, defeated the Soviet team, who had won nearly every world championship and Olympic tournament since 1954.
Team USA went on to win the gold medal by winning its last match over Finland. The Soviet Union took the silver medal by beating Sweden in its final game. In 1999, Sports Illustrated named the "Miracle on Ice" the Top Sports Moment of the 20th Century. As part of its 100th anniversary celebrations in 2008, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) chose the "Miracle on Ice" as the century's number-one international ice hockey story.
The Soviet and American teams 
The Soviet Union entered the Lake Placid games as the heavy favorite, having won the previous four ice hockey gold medals dating back to the 1964 games. In the four Olympics following their 1960 upset by Team USA at Squaw Valley, Soviet teams had gone 27–1–1 (wins-losses-ties) and outscored the opposition 175–44. In head-to-head match-ups against the United States, the cumulative score over that period was 28-7. The Soviet players, some of whom were active-duty military, played in a well-developed league with world class training facilities. They were led by legendary players in world ice hockey, such as Boris Mikhailov (a top line right winger and team captain), Vladislav Tretiak (the consensus best goaltender in the world at the time), the speedy and skilled Valeri Kharlamov, as well as talented, young, and dynamic players such as defenseman Viacheslav Fetisov and forwards Vladimir Krutov and Sergei Makarov. From that team, Tretiak, Kharlamov, and Fetisov would eventually be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
U.S. head coach Herb Brooks conducted tryouts in Colorado Springs in the summer of 1979. Of the 20 players who eventually made the final Olympic roster, Buzz Schneider was the only one returning from the 1976 Olympic team. Nine players had played under Brooks at the University of Minnesota, while four more were from Boston University. Assistant coach Craig Patrick had played with Brooks on the 1967 U.S. national team.
The Soviet and American teams were natural rivals due to the decades-old Cold War. In addition, President Jimmy Carter was at the time considering a U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics, to be held in Moscow, in protest of the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. On February 9, the same day that the American and Soviet teams met in an exhibition game in New York City, U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance denounced the impending Moscow games at a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). President Carter eventually decided in favor of the boycott.
In exhibitions that year, Soviet club teams went 5–3–1 against National Hockey League (NHL) teams, and a year earlier, the Soviet national team had routed the NHL All-Stars 6–0 to win the Challenge Cup. In 1979–80, virtually all the top North American players were Canadians, although the number of U.S.-born professional players had been on the rise throughout the 1970s. The 1980 U.S. Olympic team featured several young players who were regarded as highly promising, and some had signed contracts to play in the NHL immediately after the tournament.
In the September before the Olympics, the American team started exhibition play. They played a total of 61 games in five months against teams from Europe and America. Through these games, Herb Brooks instilled a European syle of play in the American team, emphasizing wide open play with sufficient body contact. He believed it would be the only way for the Americans to compete with the Soviets. In the last exhibition game against the Soviets at Madison Square Garden on February 9, 1980, the Soviets crushed the Americans 10–3. Soviet head coach Viktor Tikhonov later said that this victory "turned out to be a very big problem" by causing the Soviets to underestimate the American team.
Olympic group play 
In Olympic group play, the Americans surprised many observers with their physical, cohesive play. In their first game against favored Sweden, Team USA earned a dramatic 2–2 draw by scoring with 27 seconds left after pulling goalie Jim Craig for an extra attacker. Then came a stunning 7–3 victory over Czechoslovakia, who were a favorite for the silver medal. With its two toughest games in the group phase out of the way, the U.S. team reeled off three more wins, beating Norway 5–1, Romania 7–2, and West Germany 4–2 to go 4–0–1 and advance to the medal round from its group, along with Sweden.
In the other group, the Soviets stormed through their opposition undefeated, often by grossly lopsided scores. They defeated Japan 16–0, the Netherlands 17–4, Poland 8–1, Finland 4–2, and Canada 6–4 to easily qualify for the next round, although both the Finns and the Canadians gave the Soviets tough games for two periods. In the end, the Soviet Union and Finland advanced from their group.
Preparing for the medal round 
The U.S. and Soviet teams prepared for the medal round in different ways. Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov rested most of his best players, preferring to let them study plays rather than actually skate. U.S. coach Herb Brooks, however, continued with his tough, confrontational style, skating hard practices and berating his players for perceived weaknesses and to build stamina. Brooks' goal was to have his team be able to keep up with the Soviets through all three periods.
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."
"Do you believe in miracles?" 
With a capacity of 8,500, the Field House was packed. The home crowd waved U.S. flags and sang patriotic songs such as "God Bless America." The game was aired live on CTV in Canada, but not ABC in the United States. Thus, American viewers who resided in or near Canadian border regions and received the CTV signal could watch the game live, but the rest of the United States had to wait for a delayed rebroadcast.
After the Soviets declined a request to move the game from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for U.S. television (this would have meant a 4 a.m. start in Moscow for Soviet viewers), ABC decided to broadcast the late-afternoon game on tape delay in prime time.To this day some of the people that watched the game on television still believe that it was live. Before the game, 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."
First period 
As in several previous games, the U.S. team fell behind early. Vladimir Krutov deflected a slap shot by Aleksei Kasatonov past U.S. goaltender Jim Craig to give the Soviets a 1–0 lead, and after Buzz Schneider scored for the United States to tie the game, the Soviets struck again with a Sergei Makarov goal. With his team down 2–1, Craig improved his play, turning away many Soviet shots before the U.S. team had another shot on goal (the Soviet team had 39 shots on goal in the game, the Americans 16).
In the waning seconds of the first period, Dave Christian fired a slap shot on Tretiak from 100 feet (30 m) away. The Soviet goalie saved the shot but misplayed the rebound, which bounced out some 20 feet (6.1 m) in front of him. Mark Johnson sliced between the two defenders, found the loose puck, and fired it past a diving Tretiak to tie the score with one second left in the period. This would be an important judgment call by the officials, as an official announcement confirming the goal did not come until many Soviet players were off the ice and heading to the locker room for intermission. The first period ended with the game tied 2–2.
Second period 
Tikhonov replaced Tretiak with backup goaltender Vladimir Myshkin immediately after Johnson's tying goal, a move which shocked players on both teams. Tikhonov later identified this as the "turning point of the game" and called it "the biggest mistake of my career"; years later, when Johnson asked Slava Fetisov, now an NHL teammate, about the move, Fetisov responded with "Coach crazy." Myshkin allowed no goals in the second period. The Soviets dominated play in the second period, outshooting the Americans 12–2, but scored only once, on a power play goal by Aleksandr Maltsev. After two periods the Soviet Union led 3–2.
Third period 
Vladimir Krutov was sent to the penalty box at the 6:47 mark of the third period for high-sticking. The Americans, who had managed only two shots on Myshkin in 27 minutes, had a power play and a rare offensive opportunity. Myshkin stopped a Mike Ramsey shot, then U.S. team captain Mike Eruzione fired a shot wide. Late in the power play, Dave Silk was advancing into the Soviet zone when Valeri Vasiliev knocked him to the ice. The puck slid to Mark Johnson. Johnson fired off a shot that went under Myshkin and into the net at the 8:39 mark, as the power play was ending, tying the game at 3. Only a couple of shifts later, Mark Pavelich passed to Eruzione, who was left undefended in the high slot. Eruzione, who had just come onto the ice, fired a shot past Myshkin, who was screened by Vasili Pervukhin. This goal gave Team USA a 4–3 lead, its first of the game, with exactly 10 minutes left.
The Soviets, trailing for the first time in the game, attacked furiously. Moments after Eruzione's goal, Maltsev fired a shot which ricocheted off the right goal post. As the minutes wound down, Brooks kept repeating to his players, "Play your game. Play your game." Instead of going into a defensive crouch, the United States continued to play offense, even getting off a few more shots on goal. The Soviets began to shoot wildly, and Sergei Starikov admitted that "we were panicking." As the clock ticked down below a minute, the Soviets got the puck back into the American zone, and Mikhailov passed to Vladimir Petrov, who shot wide. The Soviets never pulled Myshkin for an extra attacker, much to the Americans' disbelief. Starikov later explained that "We never did six-on-five", not even in practice, because "Tikhonov just didn't believe in it." Craig kicked away a Petrov slap shot with 33 seconds left. Kharlamov fired the puck back in as the clock ticked below 20 seconds. A wild scramble for the puck ensued, ending when Johnson found it and passed it to Ken Morrow. As the U.S. team tried to clear the zone (move the puck over the blue line, which they did with seven seconds remaining), the crowd began to count down the seconds left. Sportscaster Al Michaels, who was calling the game on ABC along with former Montreal Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden, 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!||”|
As his team ran all over the ice in celebration, Herb Brooks sprinted back to the locker room and cried. In the locker room afterwards, players spontaneously broke into a chorus of "God Bless America".
During the broadcast wrap-up after the game, ABC Olympic sports anchor Jim McKay compared the American victory over the Soviets to a group of Canadian college football players defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers (the recent Super Bowl champions).
For its March 3, 1980 issue, Sports Illustrated ran a cover with just a photograph by Heinz Kluetmeier, without any accompanying captions or headlines. Kluetmeier said, "It didn't need (any cover language). Everyone in America knew what happened."
American aftermath 
The United States did not immediately win the gold medal upon defeating the USSR. In 1980 the medal round was a round-robin, not a single elimination format as it is today. Under Olympic rules at the time, the group game with Sweden was counted along with the medal round games versus the Soviet Union and Finland so it was mathematically possible for the United States to finish anywhere from first to fourth.
Despite a starting time of 11 am Eastern (8 am in California) on a Sunday morning, ABC carried the US-Finland game live, displacing its usual political talk-show lineup. (All subsequent American Olympic hockey games have been aired live on a major broadcast network: ABC in 1984 and 1988; CBS in 1992, 1994 and 1998; and NBC since 2002.)
Needing to win to secure the gold medal, Team USA came back from a 2–1 third period deficit to defeat Finland 4–2. According to Mike Eruzione, coming into the dressing room in the second intermission, Brooks turned to his players, looked at them and said, "If you lose this game, you'll take it to your graves." He then paused, took a few steps, turned again, said, "Your graves," and walked out.
At the time, the players ascended a podium to receive their medals and then lined up on the ice for the playing of the national anthem, as the podium was only meant to accommodate one person. Only the team captains remained on the podium for the duration. After the completion of the anthem, Eruzione motioned for his teammates to join him on the podium. Today, podiums are not used for ice hockey; the teams line up on their respective bluelines after the final game.
At the 1982 World Championship in Finland, the Americans finished eighth and last in the round-robin tournament and were relegated into the B-Pool for 1983. They lost six straight games and only managed to tie West Germany 5-5 in their last outing. Returnees from the 1980 Olympic victory included Mike Ramsey, Mark Johnson, Buzz Schneider, and John Harrington.
Later careers 
Of the 20 players on Team USA, 13 eventually played in the NHL. Five of them went on to play over 500 NHL games, and three would play over 1,000 NHL games.
- Neal Broten played one more season for the Golden Gophers before moving on to the NHL, and appeared in 1,099 NHL games over 17 seasons, with 992 of them being with the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise. He captained the Stars before being traded midway through the 1994/95 season to the New Jersey Devils. A two-time All-Star, he tallied 923 career points (289 goals, 634 assists), became the first American player to record 100 points in a season, and won a Stanley Cup as a member of the Devils in 1995. Broten had already won the NCAA championship in 1979 at the University of Minnesota; this, combined with the Olympic gold medal in 1980 and the 1995 Cup win (Broten scored the Cup-winning goal in Game 4 as Viacheslav Fetisov, playing for the Red Wings, fell down), made him the first player in the history of the sport to win a championship at the collegiate, professional, and Olympic levels. The Dallas Stars have since retired number 7 for Broten.
- Ken Morrow won a Stanley Cup in 1980 as a member of the New York Islanders, becoming the first hockey player to win an Olympic gold medal and the Cup in the same year. He went on to play 550 NHL games and win three more Cups, all with the Islanders.
- Mike Ramsey played in 1,070 games over 18 years. Fourteen of those years were spent with the Buffalo Sabres, with whom he played 911 games and was a five-time All-Star, captaining the team from 1990–92. In 1995, he played in the Stanley Cup Finals while with the Detroit Red Wings, but got swept by Neal Broten and the New Jersey Devils. In 2000 Ramsey became an assistant coach for the Minnesota Wild.
- Dave Christian spent 14 years in the NHL, the bulk of them for the original Winnipeg Jets (for whom he served as team captain) and Washington Capitals. In 1990, Christian played in the Stanley Cup Finals while on the Boston Bruins, but lost in five games to the Edmonton Oilers. He ended his career with 783 points (340 goals, 443 assists) in 1,009 games and made the All-Star team in 1991.
- Mark Johnson played for several teams in the NHL before finding a home in New Jersey, tallying 508 career points (203 goals, 305 assists) in 669 games over 11 seasons. Like Christian, Ramsey, and Broten, he became an NHL All-Star (in 1984) and served as team captain with the Hartford Whalers. In 2002 Johnson became the coach of the University of Wisconsin–Madison Women's Hockey team, leading the team to National Championships in 2006, 2007, 2009 and 2011. Johnson also served as head coach of the women's ice hockey team that won the silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
- Jack O'Callahan played 390 NHL regular season games between 1982 and 1989 for the Chicago Blackhawks and New Jersey Devils.
- David Silk played 249 NHL regular season games for the Boston Bruins, Winnipeg Jets, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers between 1980 and 1985.
- Jim Craig appeared in 30 NHL games from 1980 through 1984.
- Team captain Mike Eruzione did not play any high-level ice hockey after the 1980 Olympics, as he felt that he had accomplished all of his hockey goals with the gold medal win. He did work as a hockey television analyst in the 1980s and 1990s.
- Craig Patrick, Brooks' assistant coach and assistant general manager, went on to both manage and coach the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins of the NHL. As a result of his success with the Penguins, who won two Stanley Cups while Patrick was the GM, he was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2002. During that same year, he also served as GM to the Brooks-coached 2002 US Hockey team that won the silver medal at the Salt Lake City games.
- Herb Brooks, the team coach, coached several NHL teams following the Olympics, with mixed results. He returned to the Olympics as coach of the French team in 1998, the first Olympics in which NHL professionals competed. Brooks then led Team USA to the silver medal in 2002, which included a 3-2 victory over Russia (a large part of the former Soviet Union) in the semi-finals, the match coming 22 years to the day after their famous "Miracle on Ice" game. Brooks died in a car crash near Forest Lake, Minnesota on August 11, 2003 at the age of 66. In 2005, the Olympic Center ice arena in Lake Placid where the Miracle on Ice took place was renamed in his honor.
- Al Michaels got the job as play-by-play man for ice hockey at Lake Placid because he was the only member of ABC's announcing team who had previously called the sport (at the 1972 Winter Olympics in Sapporo, Japan). Michaels was named "Sportscaster of the Year" in 1980 for his coverage of the event, and the team received Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsmen of the Year" award, as well as being named as Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press and ABC's Wide World of Sports. In 2004, ESPN, as part of their 25th anniversary, declared the Miracle on Ice to be the top sports headline moment, and game of the period 1979–2004. The victory was voted the greatest sports moment of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated.
Soviet aftermath 
In the Soviet locker room Tikhonov singled out first-line players Tretiak, Kharlamov, Petrov, and Mikhailov, and told each of them, "This is your loss!" Two days after the Miracle on Ice, the Soviet team crushed Sweden 9–2, winning the silver medal. The Soviet players were so upset at their loss that they did not turn in their silver medals to get their names inscribed on them, as is custom. The result stunned the Soviet Union and its news media. Pravda did not mention the game, either in its next daily issue or in its Lake Placid wrap-up.
Despite the loss, the USSR remained the pre-eminent power in Olympic hockey until its 1991 break-up. The Soviet team did not lose a World Championship game until 1985 and did not lose to the United States again until 1991. Throughout the 1980s, NHL teams continued to draft Soviet players in hopes of enticing them to eventually play professionally in North America, but it was not until the 1988/89 season that the NHL saw its first Soviet player, when veteran Sergei Pryakhin joined the Calgary Flames.
In the 1989/90 season, several 1980 Soviet Olympians joined the NHL, including Helmuts Balderis, Vyacheslav Fetisov, Alexei Kasatonov, Vladimir Krutov, and Sergei Makarov. Fetisov was a teammate of Mike Ramsey on the 1995 Detroit Red Wings team that lost the Stanley Cup Final. Fetisov completed his career by winning Cups with the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998; the first Cup win also made Fetisov a member of the Triple Gold Club, consisting of individuals who have won a Stanley Cup plus gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships. Makarov won the Calder Memorial Trophy as NHL Rookie of the Year in 1989/90, becoming the oldest player to win that award. That same season, younger Soviet stars Alexander Mogilny and Sergei Fedorov defected to play for the Buffalo Sabres and Detroit Red Wings, respectively. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, a flood of ex-Soviet stars joined the NHL, including Igor Larionov and Vladimir Konstantinov. Since then, many of the NHL's top players have come from the former Soviet republics.
Film and television 
A made for TV movie Miracle on Ice, starring Karl Malden as Brooks and Steve Guttenberg as Craig, aired on ABC television in March of 1981. It incorporated actual game footage and original commentary from the 1980 Winter Games.
In 2004, Walt Disney Pictures released the film Miracle, starring Kurt Russell as Brooks. Al Michaels recreated his commentary for most of the games. The final ten seconds, however, and his "Do you believe in miracles? YES!" call, were from the original broadcast and used in the film since the filmmakers felt that they could not ask him to recreate the emotion he felt at that moment. The film was dedicated to Herb Brooks, who died shortly after principal photography was completed. The movie was released by Walt Disney Pictures, by that point a sister company to ABC.
Team rosters 
* Starting line up
Box score 
- Shots on goal: USA — USSR 16:39 (8:18, 2:12, 6:9)
- Penalty minutes: USA — USSR 6:6 (0:2, 6:2, 0:2)
- Power play goals/attempts: USA: 1-of-2, USSR: 1-of-2
- Goalies: USA: Craig......60:00, 36 saves, 3 GA
- Goalies: USSR: Tretiak...19:59, 6 saves, 2 GA
- Goalies: USSR: Myshkin...40:01, 6 saves, 2 GA
- Note: 19:59 USSR goalie change: Myshkin replaces Tretiak
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