CHICAGO – What many consider to be the greatest moment in the history of American sports happened 43 years ago on Wednesday.
That’s when a group of young hockey players pulled off what has come to be known as the “Miracle on Ice.”
On February 22, 1980, the United States men’s hockey team pulled off one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports at the Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York.
The collection of college players and young prospects under the direction of Herb Brooks upset the veteran-laden Soviet Union team 4-3 in the first game of the medal round. The USSR had come into the contest having won the previous four Olympic gold medals in hockey and were undefeated in the tournament up until that point.
After crushing the United States in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden in New York 10-3 before the start of the Lake Placid games, the Soviet Union won all five games in the prelimnary round by a combined score of 51-11.
The game was also played during a contentious point in the cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union, adding more to the atmosphere ahead of the medal round game.
But something was different on this afternoon in front of a pro-USA crowd at the Olympic Fieldhouse in Lake Placid. The US team was up to the challenge in the first period, matching the USSR goal-for-goal, including a last-second score by Mark Johnson to tie it up at two.
Upset over that late score, soviet head coach Viktor Tikhonov pulled goaltender Vladislav Tretiak, arguably the best player at that position in the world. While the Soviet Union pulled ahead in the second, United States goaltender Jim Craig kept his team within a goal heading to the third.
It was then that the host country made their move as Johnson along with Mike Eruzione scored goals 1:21 apart to give the United States the lead. Over the next ten minutes, the USSR would try to get the game even, but failed to do so against Craig.
As the crowd counted down the final seconds, ABC Sports’ Al Michaels uttered the memorable phrase “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”
Years later, it remains a great moment not only for the athletic achievement but also civic pride for the country as a whole.
Despite the triumph, the United States didn’t clinch a gold medal in the Lake Placid games with that victory. They needed to beat Finland two days later and actually trailed in that game 2-1 after two periods.
But the US scored three goals in the third period to win it 4-2 and capture the gold medal, completing a magical run in the tournament that was highilghted by a miracle 43 years ago Wednesday.