The date February 22nd may be permanently etched in the minds of USA Olympic Hockey Team fans for two totally different reasons.
This morning, February 22, 2014, USA hockey fans witnessed one of the worst performances in USA Olympic hockey history.
In the bronze medal game at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, a feisty Finnish team humiliated a lifeless USA squad.
The Finns beat the Yanks 5 – 0. Internationally regarded as a high scoring squad, the demoralized American team lacked fire power and were shockingly shutout for the second game in a row.
USA Hockey’s performance in the 2014 Sochi Winter Games will be something American fans will want to quickly forget.
With that thought in mind, let’s turn our hockey clocks back 34 years to the exact same February 22 date, but this time in 1980, and remember perhaps the greatest time in USA Hockey history.
The USA’s 1980 upset victory, or Miracle on Ice, will always be remembered as arguably the greatest upset in team sports history.
Let’s focus on the positive and recall the incredible 1980 USA surprising victory. It should take some of the sting out of this morning’s painful defeat to a worthy Finnish team.
Here’s an excerpt from my book Olympic Favorites about the dangerously uncertain times surrounding our nation’s greatest of great hockey games.
…..The 1970s was a decade filled with war protests, Presidential scandal and a troubling economy. Americans were nervous and hoped for a miracle to rescue the United States out of their uncertain and depressing times.
What Americans hadn’t expected was that their miracle would take place in the world of sports.
This extraordinary event easily skates into the #6 spot in my book about Olympic Favorites.
It birthed one of the most amazing, or miraculous, upsets in the history of sports.
Team USA’s stunning upset over the heavily favored Soviet Union National Hockey Team still stands as one of the greatest victories in the history of team sports. This USA win remains an unforgettable highlight of the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.
The semi-final match-up between the USA and the USSR not only paired the world’s two super powers during the height of the Cold War. It also featured a team of much younger, amateur American collegiate stars skating against older, better skilled and more experienced Russians. The Russian players had been playing professionally in Europe for many years.
Back then, the Soviets dominated international hockey. They captured gold at the four previous Winter Olympics and held claim to 14 of the previous 17 World Hockey Championships.
The Russians were major favorites. For the scrappy young Americans to be victorious in the semi-final game, they would need a divine act or a supernatural intervention.
Surprisingly, the Americans stayed close during the first two periods. Then, midway through the third period, the youthful Americans shocked the favored Russians. Captain Mike Eruzione found the back of the net past the Russian goalie and gave the USA a 4 – 3 lead.
By the end of the third period, the heavily favored Russians found themselves trailing and unable to make up the American lead against a little known USA goalie named Jim Craig. That day, Craig successfully turned back 30 shots against the superior Russians.
The game clock slowly wound down with the Americans clinging to a one goal lead. When the final buzzer sounded, legendary NBC sportscaster Al Michaels shouted, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”
In the case of the 1980 USA Hockey Team, the unbelievable happened in Lake Placid, NY. That day marked one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports and lifted the American spirit of the time.
This divine Olympic victory will be forever remembered as one of my Olympic Favorites – the Miracle on Ice.
MIKE – thee ultimate talking head on sports!