The “Miracle” At 30

Hard to believe it’s been 30 years since the U.S. beat the hockey powerhouse Soviet team in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., on their way to an improbable gold medal. The “Miracle on Ice” stands for many as the greatest sports moment in U.S. history and still remains a source of national pride. As the 2010 Winter Olympics take place Feb. 12-28 in Vancouver, the memories of that moment 30 years ago will be at the forefront of these Games for many Americans. Here are a few facts surrounding the story of the “Miracle on Ice”:

  • How good was the Soviet team? While technically amateurs, the Soviet team played as professionals with world-class training, and boasted some of the best players in the world. The Soviet Union had won the gold medal in six of the previous seven Olympics. Their only loss during that span was in 1960, when the U.S. won. In 1979, the Soviet team beat the NHL All Stars 6-0 in the final game of an exhibition series. In a 1980 pre-Olympic exhibition game, the Soviets routed the U.S. team 10-3.
  • It’s often incorrectly assumed that the U.S. won the gold medal vs. the Soviets in that game. The medal round at the time was in a round-robin format (today, it is single-elimination), and the win over the Soviet Union kept the U.S. alive for a medal. It wasn’t until their 4-2 win over Finland two days later that the U.S. secured the gold.
  • The Soviets took the early lead in the game, but the U.S. scored with one second left in the first period to tie the game at 2-2. The Soviets tagged on another goal in the second period to take a 3-2 advantage. But in the third period, U.S. center Mike Johnson scored his second goal of the game, a power-play goal, and captain Mike Eruzione tacked on the go-ahead goal with 10 minutes left to play. The 4-3 score would stand and the U.S. team made up of amateurs and college players shocked the world’s best team.
  • Then ABC TV announcer Al Michaels made one of sports’ most memorable calls as he counted down the seconds remaining in the game: “Eleven 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 game wasn’t broadcast live on U.S. television. ABC tape-delayed the game to air during prime time.
  • Thirteen of the 20 players on the U.S. team went on to play in the NHL. A few of them — Neal Broten, Ken Morrow, Mike Ramsey, Dave Christian and Mark Johnson — had long, successful careers. Team captain Mike Eruzione retired from playing following the Olympics, but went on to coaching and broadcasting. Goalie Jim Craig played in only 30 NHL games and retired in 1984.
  • In the years after the 1980 Winter Olympics, head coach Herb Brooks coached four different NHL teams, and again coached the U.S. Olympic team to a silver medal in 2002. Brooks died in an auto accident in 2003. The arena in Lake Placid where the Miracle on Ice occurred was renamed Herb Brooks Arena in 2005.