One of the most iconic sporting events in the 1980s was on February 22, 1980, during the time when the Soviet War in Afghanistan was ongoing for almost two months, making the Cold War as tense as ever. On that same day, a hockey team made up of American college players won against a dominant Soviet Union group that is composed of professional athletes during the Winter Olympics that was held in Lake Placid in New York.
During that time, the USA hockey team did not present very high hopes as their team was made up of mostly college players and amateurs. With this, their win was indeed very surprising for everyone. The announcer of the game named Al Michaels couldn’t contain himself and shouted, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” near the end of the game, and it symbolized the joy of the whole country. If you want to learn more about what happened back then, here’s a list of the unforgettable facts about the miracle on ice.
Twenty years earlier, the United States defeated the Russians in a surprise upset in a hockey game.
In 1960, which was 20 years before the Miracle on Ice, the Americans won the men’s hockey gold due to a surprising semifinal win over the defending champion, the Soviet Union. After that win, the Soviets started to dominate and won the next four gold medals. This had made the USA hockey team’s win in 1980 a much bigger shock for everyone.
The head coach of the USA team was the last player cut from the 1960 team.
Back in the ‘60s, Bill Cleary only agreed to join team USA if his brother Bob could play. His wish was granted, and as a result, there was not enough room for Herb Brooks. He then played at the 1964 and 1968 Olympics. After that, he earned a spot on the Olympic team as head coach after he helped the University of Minnesota to 3 national championships in the 1970s.
It was the first time for Al Michaels to announce a hockey game.
In 1972, Michaels got the play-by-play assignment for the gold medal hockey game on NBC as nobody else wanted to do it. But in 1980, doing that one broadcast made him an undisputed hockey veteran at ABC. He was also the only one who knew what offside and icing were.
Also, did you know that he memorized the Russian names by playing table hockey? Yes, he played against his broadcast partner and former NHL goalie Ken Dryden, announcing their competitions and naming his little men after the players that the team USA was about to face.
It was not the gold medal game.
The USA team and the Soviets advanced to the medal round along with Sweden and Finland. A win earned a country two points, while a tie one point. Going to the big match, the USA team had tied with Sweden. The USSR, on the other hand, beat Finland. After the United States shocked the world, the frustrations of the USSR were taken out on Sweden after two days and beat them 9-2. This meant that if the USA team lost to Finland in their next and last game, the Soviet Union would have earned the Gold again.
The game was aired on tape delay in the United States, and parts of it were cut out of the original broadcast.
ABC tried so hard to have the opening face-off moved from 5pm to 8pm eastern time. They even agreed to pay $125,000 to the International Ice Hockey Federation to make it happen. However, the IIHF could not get the Soviet Union to agree to the time change. Since the game happened in 1980, the outcome was not known by most people in the United States when they watched the recorded broadcast on primetime.
In addition to that, ABC also had scheduled footage for both the hockey game and men’s slalom from 8:30pm to 11pm. However, 8pm to 8:30 pm was devoted to the animated special of Pink Panther in the Olympics. With this, some parts of the game were cut out to make room.
The starting goaltender in the soviet team was taken out of the game after the first period, which shuddered up the team.
At the start of the game, it appeared that the USSR was going to finish the first period up 2-1. However, the last-second score done by Mark Johnson gave the USA team a lot of momentum. That upset Viktor Tikhonov a lot that he decided to bend Vladislav Tretiak, replacing him with Vladimir Myshkin. He shut out the Americans in the second period but allowed two goals in the third. That moved surprised the Russians during that time. According to Tikhonov, it was his worst mistake and biggest regret.
The players from both teams USA and USSR, later played in the NHL.
Among the 20 members of the USA-squad went pro. These include defenseman Ken Morro who joined the New York Islanders and won the Stanley Cup. Sergei Makarov, Jim Craig’s arcade friend, was among the five players from the 1980 USSR team to join the 1988 to 1990 season of the National Hockey League. He won the Rookie of the Year award when he was 31 years old. This leads the NHL to enforce a rule the next season that you need to be 26 or younger to win.
There was a movie that was made for television about the game, and it starred Steve Guttenberg.
Miracle on Ice, which was a 1981 film by ABC, was a mix of the actual game footage with written scenes. Steve Guttenberg played the role of goalie Jim Craig, while Karl Malden played Herb Brooks. Later on, Disney released a film titled Miracle in 2004, and it starred Kurt Russel as Brooks.
These are some of the most unforgettable facts about the “Miracle On Ice.” It is indeed a very iconic moment in the world of sports back in the 1980s. Who would’ve thought that a hockey team comprised of college players can beat a team of professional players? That is indeed amazing, right?
We hope that this helped you learn more about the iconic “Miracle On Ice” back in the ‘80s. For more iconic sports events, you can check out our list of the Top Iconic Sporting Events of the 80s.