The 1980 Olympics were revolutionary for many ways. For one, it was the first time the United States had hosted the Olympics since the 1960 winter games in Squaw Valley, California. The 1980 Winter Olympics were held in Lake Placid, New York, which is 5 and a half hours from New York City, and two hours from Montreal, Canada. Another reason the Lake Placid games are so remarkable is that the United States was not expected to win a gold medal in men’s hockey, but they managed to beat the Soviets and made what is now hockey history. This event has been made into two movies, a 1981 version and a 2004 Disney version (available on Disney Plus). The 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice game falls on February 22, 2020 and has brought the attention back on the team and their miraculous win.
The United States men’s hockey team was coached at the 1980 Olympics by Herb Brooks (who the rink in Lake Placid is now named after), and featured a starting lineup of remarkable players. Mike Ramsey, Ken Morrow, Rob McClanahan, Dave Silk, Jim Craig and Memorial High School graduate and UW women’s coach Mark Johnson. When the legendary game was played, its aired tape was delayed in the US because it couldn’t be played in primetime. The stadium in Lake Placid was at capacity of 8,500 fans waving Soviet and American flags and cheering. At the time, the Soviets were the hockey powerhouse, with a gold medal in each of the past 3 Olympics.
The game itself was an intense match. In the first period the United States was behind early, the Soviets scored a goal nine minutes in, but Buzz Schneider of the US scored at 14:13, tying the game. The Soviets struck again at 17:34, with only 3 minutes left in the period, but in the last few seconds Mark Johnson scored for the US, tying the game at 2-2. The Soviet coach, Viktor Tikhonov, replaced their goalie with a backup for the second period, which the players from both teams have questioned since then. Tikhonov even admitted it was the “biggest mistake of my career.” The Soviets garnered 12 shots on goal compared to 2 by the US, but only one goal was scored, leaving the score 3-2 with one period of play left. The third period went scoreless until a power play goal by Johnson at 8:39 tied it up again. Another US goal by captain Mike Eruzione raised the score to 4-3. The rest of the game was a madhouse, with the Soviets struggling to score and the US just playing their game. With 11 seconds left in the game the newscaster on ABC, Al Michaels, delivered the now famous line,
“Morrow up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? YES!”
With that, the game was over. The United States had won. Herb Brooks and all the US players came on the ice to celebrate. After the game the team sang, “God Bless America” in the locker room, and received a congratulatory call from President Jimmy Carter. This win didn’t automatically give the US the gold medal, according to old Olympic rules they played round robin format for the medal round. The US won the game against Finland and with that won the gold medal.
This win has been widely regarded as one of the greatest moments in sports history, and was voted the greatest sports moment of the 20th century by Sports Illustrated. This ruling still stands on the 40th anniversary.
By Eliana Sauer