Most Americans will remember that famous line uttered by sportscaster Al Michaels as he called the final seconds in the 1980 Olymic Hockey tournament semi-finals pitting the US team versus the powerful Soviet team. The US had won 4-3 and the next day beat Finland to win its first Gold medal in hockey since 1960.
A major motion picture called “Miracle” debuts on February 6th which tells the story of the 1980 team and its coach Herb Brooks who did the impossible.
You just had to either be there or have seen it on the tube to understand how incredible the 1980 US Hockey victory over the Soviets was.
The USSR had not lost the Gold medal since 1960 when the US team won it in Squaw Valley and the Soviets had won 21 straight Olympic games before that night.
While the US team was made up of college players (amateurs) the Soviet team was made up of the best players in the USSR who all happened to be in the military. Their job was to play hockey so they were really professionals paid under the table so they could be passed off as amateurs.
The US team hadn’t been in contention for a hockey medal since 1960 and they were seeded 7th in the 1980 tournament out of 12 teams.
The US team jelled during the tournament and as they won games the momentum built so when the Soviet match came up people were stoked. Millions watched the game on the tube. Most were hopeful the US would win but no one really thought they could. The Soviets were too tough and too professional for the gang of college kids.
The US team got lucky in the match as the Soviets dominated play through out. The US winning goal came with 10 minutes left and they had to hang on to win. That is why it was a miracle and the best US Olympic victory in history.
The victory made people forget for a time the funk we were in with the Cold War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the hostages in Iran, the haunting memories of Vietnam, and the terrible economy.
Every time they show those scenes of the final seconds ticking off, the gloves and sticks flying into the air, and Al Michaels now famous statement, I can’t help but be transported back to that cold February night in 1980 when I saw one of the greatest sports drama played out live on television. It made me a hockey fan to this day.