‘Miracle on Ice’: When the US Olympic Hockey Team Stunned the World

‘Miracle on Ice’: When the US Olympic Hockey Team Stunned the World


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The Soviet hockey team, led by an iron curtain of a goaltender named Vladislav Tretiak, was the clear favorite to bring home the gold at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York. The Soviets had won all four of the previous Olympics and had beaten the USA in all 12 face-offs between 1960 and 1980, outscoring the Americans 117-26.

Just a week before the 1980 games, in an exhibition game played at Madison Square Garden, the USSR walloped the USA 10-3. The entire hockey world expected the Soviets to easily skate their way to another gold.

But that’s not what happened, of course. In an epic semi-final match that became known as the “Miracle on Ice,” an American squad composed of talented but untested college players outplayed and outscored the mighty Soviet hockey machine.

“Some of the guys on the Soviet team were players that should have been NHL stars,” says Kevin Allen, a veteran hockey journalist for USA Today. “For a bunch of American players right out of college to come in and beat them was major. Sports Illustrated called it the ‘greatest sports moment of the 20th century’ and I’d have to concur.”

The Americans, While Not a 'Ragtag' Crew, Still Had Plenty to Prove

What’s often overlooked about the “Miracle” match was how good the American players really were. It’s a myth that they were a “ragtag bunch of guys” who came out of nowhere, says Allen, author of Star-Spangled Hockey: Celebrating 75 Years of USA Hockey.

The U.S. team was hand-selected by the now-legendary coach Herb Brooks, who was coming off an NCAA championship season with the Minnesota Golden Gophers. They represented some of the top amateur talent in the country and many would go on to have long and storied NHL careers. The American hockey team was young—the average age was 21.5—but they made up for it with confidence.

And confidence was something that was in short supply in America at the time, says Allen. When the Lake Placid Olympics opened on February 13, 1980, it marked the 102nd day of the Iran Hostage Crisis. Americans were just coming off a decade of political scandal, energy crises and crippling economic stagflation, plus the USSR had recently invaded Afghanistan.

“America was looking for a reason to be reminded of the greatness that this country could achieve,” says Allen, which is why the semi-final with the Soviets was more than a hockey game, but also a political and ideological showdown.

Brooks Was a Master Motivator, by Any Means Necessary

WATCH: U.S. Pulls Off "Miracle on Ice"

Over three decades as a hockey writer, Allen interviewed all of the key players in the “Miracle” victory and he says they look back at their time under coach Herb Brooks like a soldier remembering a drill sergeant from basic training. It was hell to live through, but afterward they came to appreciate Brooks’ unconventional methods.

“Herb Brooks was eccentric, entertaining and really old school,” says Allen, who also interviewed the coach many times. “You might say he was practicing amateur psychology without a license.”

To prepare for international play, the young USA squad went on a 61-game exhibition tour in the months leading up to the Olympics. After a poor performance in Norway, Brooks barged into the locker room and ordered the players back on the ice. His former Minnesota players knew what was coming, a punishing drill known as “Herbies”—endless wind sprints that push athletes to their absolute limit.

Team USA did Herbies for an hour straight that night in Norway until they learned the true meaning of one of their coach’s favorite maxims: “This team isn’t talented enough to win on talent alone.”

One of Brooks’ classic motivational tricks was to purposefully anger his players by pushing their buttons. If they all hated him, Brooks reasoned, they would work together to prove him wrong. Brooks called Rob McClanahan, who came from a wealthy suburb of St. Paul, a “cake eater.” He regularly dressed down the captain, Mike Eruzione, in front of the team to rile them up.

But Brooks’ most famous ploy came after the demoralizing 10-3 loss to the Soviets in the final exhibition game. Jim Craig was the goalie in that game and Brooks told Craig that he had made a mistake in playing him. Craig was tired, Brooks said, and had clearly lost his edge. Craig was livid when he left the locker room and dead set on never losing again.

“Now we know that was clearly Herb Brooks’s intent,” says Allen, and Craig, playing with a chip on his shoulder, would go on to become one of the heroes of the “Miracle” match.

An Upset for the Ages

After going 4-0-1 in their pool, Team USA took the ice against the dominant Soviets on February 22, 1980. The much-anticipated game started at 5 pm but was broadcast on tape delay at 8 pm that night to capture a larger TV audience. A record 36 million American households tuned in.

Like every other game the Americans played in Lake Placid, the U.S. team fell behind early 1-0, but forward Buzz Schneider tied it back up with a dagger of a slapshot. The Soviets answered minutes later to go 2-1. Then, with just seconds left in the first period, forward Mark Johnson snagged a rare deflection from the Soviet goalie Tretiak and scored what many believe was the turning point of the game.

When the Soviets took the ice to start the second period, Tretiak was on the bench. The Soviet coach was so enraged by Johnson’s last-second goal that he replaced his god-like goalie with a mere “mortal,” says Allen, giving the underdog Americans even more hope.

After being shut out in the second period and going down 3-2 in the third, the Americans tied the score at 3-3 with Johnson’s second goal of the night. While Johnson led the offense, Craig was an absolute beast in the goal. He recorded 36 saves that night for a .923 save percentage. “It’s always going to be known as one of the great goalie performances of all time,” says Allen.

But the hero that everybody remembers from the “Miracle” game was Eruzione, the captain that Brooks loved to use as a punching bag. Receiving a perfect pass from Mark Pavelich, Eruzione took only his second shot of the night, a low, hard wrister that zipped past a kneeling defender and snuck under the Soviet goalie’s outstretched pad. Team USA was up 4-3.

It was bedlam in Lake Placid as the flag-waving crowd roared to its feet. Even stoic Herb Brooks couldn’t suppress a brief smile. But there were still 10 long minutes on the clock.

Somehow, Craig and the U.S. defensemen held off a Soviet onslaught until the final seconds ticked off the clock, and play-by-play announcer Al Michaels improvised the most famous call in American sports history: “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”

It would be several hours before the rest of the country witnessed the miraculous victory on TV, prompting Americans to pour into the streets waving flags and singing “God Bless America,” says Allen.

To win the gold medal, though, Team USA had to win one more game against Finland. In the locker room before the championship match, which the Americans ultimately won 4-2, Brooks abandoned his mind games to deliver a heartfelt pep talk. “You were born to be a player,” he told his young team. “You were meant to be here. This moment is yours.”


‘Miracle on Ice’: When the US Olympic Hockey Team Stunned the World - HISTORY

Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. ET on USAHockey.com, the 2014 U.S. Olympic jersey will be unveiled. It will join a long line of jerseys that have been part of some of the greatest moments in American hockey history.

There have been plenty of hits and misses, and we won’t know much about where the 2014 jersey will land until it is unveiled Tuesday. However, it looks like we probably got a peek at what to expect based on this crest being on pretty much every single thing American players were wearing Monday at camp, including the practice jerseys.

If this is the jersey, it will be the first time in a long time the U.S. goes with a shield or crest versus a word mark since the 1940s.

[Update: See the new jersey here]

You may recall that in 2010, the IOC banned federations’ national teams from wearing the corporate logo of said federations. Therefore, USA Hockey’s trademark “Waving S” logo can’t be used on the jerseys as it was in Olympics from 1988 to 2006. So before the new jerseys joins the ranks to be judged against the rest, here’s a look at what it will be compared to for the rest of time.

1920 Olympics — Antwerp, Belgium

Hockey made its Olympic debut in the 1920 Summer Games. Yes, ice hockey used to be part of the summer Olympics. You can read more about that in this feature by USA Hockey Magazine’s Justin Felisko here.

The roster included Frank “Moose” Goheen, who is a Hockey Hall of Famer. Team USA took silver that year. Here they are in their blue jerseys:

There’s that crest. It’s a pretty plain sweater, but look at those bright breezers and tiny goalie pads. Pretty cool to get a look at the very first Olympic team and the jersey that started it all.

1924 Olympics — Chamonix, France

The jerseys didn’t deviate much in 1924 from 1920, though this was the first winter Olympics. Team USA once again took silver. Among those on the roster, Clarence “Taffy” Abel and Herb Drury, who each played a bit in the NHL. Abel was one of the first known U.S. regulars in the NHL. Lake Superior State University’s hockey team’s facility is named after the U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer.

The goaltender was Alphonse Lacroix, who had a cup of coffee in the old NHL as the emergency replacement of Georges Vezina for the Montreal Canadiens after the all-time great fell ill with tuberculous.

1928 Olympics — St. Moritz, Switzerland

Team USA did not compete in the 1928 Winter Olympics.

1932 Olympics — Lake Placid, N.Y.

You may not know that Lake Placid hosted two Winter Olympics. Not bad for a tiny town in upstate New York. The U.S. was back in action on home turf and once again claimed silver. Canada won its fourth straight gold.

This jersey also featured the typical USA crest, but these jerseys deviated a bit with red and white arm stripes on the blue jerseys.

This uni is one of my favorites of all time, actually (Photo via stateofhockeymn.webs.com). They are so incredibly simple and unfortunately this black and white photo doesn’t really do them justice. Here’s a look at the real deal in technicolor.

These jerseys were eventually worn as throwbacks in the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, with a slight alteration. Instead of the Olympic Rings topping the shield, it says USA as seen here.

1936 Olympics — Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany

In 1936, the U.S. was on the medal stand again, this time winning the bronze. Oddly enough, it was Great Britain who stopped Canada’s reign as Olympic champions. Weird, right? As you may have noticed by the year and location, this was also an event under a cloud in Nazi Germany. This would be the last Winter Games for eight years, as World War II forced the Games to stall for two cycles.

Here is Team USA, looking awfully happy to be sitting so close together. Again, there’s the crest, though this jersey featured some shoulder stripping and more pronounced stripes on the arms. (Photo via Wikipedia, Credit New York Times)

1948 Olympics — St. Moritz, Switzerland

So this one is really complicated and actually it’s something I had never heard about until researching this post. The U.S. was actually disqualified from the 1948 Winter Games, because two different organizations sent national teams. Weird, right? I thought so, too.

It’s actually quite a fascinating tale. You can read a truncated version of the happenings here. Long story, short, the Amateur Hockey Association was allowed to ice its team over the AAU squad that also showed up. The AHA team had some professionals on the roster, which didn’t sit well with the IOC. Though the U.S. technically finished fourth, the official IOC standings have the team listed as disqualified.

Here’s a link to the jerseys the AHA team wore. Very similar to the standard Olympic jerseys of years past, but a chunkier shield and less colorful striping on the arms. If you didn’t know, the Amateur Hockey Association of the United States is now known as USA Hockey.

1952 Olympics — Oslo, Norway

Once again the U.S. took the silver at the Olympics. This team came awfully close to gold, but tied Canada 3-3 in the final game to fall just two points short of the top prize. This team featured future legendary college coach Len Ceglarski, who spent many years at Clarkson and later Boston College.

This was the first time the USA word mark appeared prominently on the jersey. Though small and off-center it shared the jersey with the AHAUS crest. You can see the beginnings of those iconic 1960 Olympic jerseys starting to form here. (Photo via Harrison Speedometer)

1956 Olympics — Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy

This was perhaps one of the most important Olympic Games in history for this was the dawning of the Soviet hockey super power. Though underdogs then, the USSR took the gold for the first time at this Olympics. Once again, it was the Americans on the short end.

With a team featuring many of the great American stars of the era, led by John Mayasich, Willard Ikola, John Matchefts, Gordon Christian, Dick Meredith and Bill Cleary, the U.S. lost to the Soviets in the final round to finish second. Team USA was also led by legendary head coach John Mariucci (seen in the top right of this photo).

Here, AHAUS figured it out. The big USA diagonally across the jersey makes no mistake of who is playing. The AHAUS patch is small, but still an important part of the jersey in the upper left shoulder. Great unis. (Photo via Vintage Minnesota Hockey)

1960 Olympics — Squaw Valley, Calif.

The Miracle before the Miracle. This was simply one of the most significant events in American hockey history. After 40 years of Olympic participation, Team USA finally broke through and won the gold medal, this time on home ice.

The team was led by head coach Jack Riley and had a host of American-born stars, many from the previous team. Jack McCartan had a virtuoso performance in net for the U.S., proving to be the key difference in winning gold. Also part of the team was John Mayasich, Bill and Roger Christian, Bill and Bob Cleary, Jack Kirrane and Dick Meredith. Many of these guys never stepped foot in the NHL, yet are still revered by American hockey history buffs.

Here’s a good look at both the white and the blue jerseys. Also, you might note the fellow second from the left in the front row. That’s Herb Brooks. This is the photo made famous in “Miracle” in a scene where Brooks, played by Kurt Russell, looks longingly at the photo representing his missed opportunity.

Here’s another look at the jerseys a little more up close, as modeled by Bill and Bob Cleary (photo via GoCrimson.com)

Team USA wore replica throwbacks of these during the 2010 Winter Olympics and even beat Canada in the prelims while wearing them. In my opinion, these were the best a U.S. team has ever worn. Here’s one more look (via legendaryauctions.com)

And if you’ve never seen the documentary about this team…. you should. It’s called Forgotten Miracle. Have a look at the trailer.

1964 Olympics — Innsbruck, Austria

In the long shadow of the 1960 team, this U.S. outfit failed to medal and placed fifth while the Soviet Union claimed their second gold. It would be the first in a run of four consecutive Olympics with gold. That run was ended by a bunch of college kids in Lake Placid.

The 1964 team included a few holdovers from the 1960 squad included Herb Brooks this, who eventually got to live his Olympic dream, albeit with a less successful side. This U.S. outfit finished fifth with a 2-5-0 record.

There are some conflicting photos out there as to which jersey is actually the 1964 jersey, but based on my limited research, it’s essentially the same as those from 1960.

1968 Olympics — Grenoble, France

Once again, the U.S. team failed to medal, this time co-captained by Herb Brooks. It was a disappointing sixth-place finish in Grenoble as the Soviets went on to win gold again.

Here starts the more horizontal USA word mark and the scrapping of the shoulder crest. The jersey’s shoulders and striping is quite similar to the ones from 1960. (Photo via stateofhockeymn.webs.com)

Here’s a more up-close look from classicauctions.com:

Really like the numbering on these.

1972 Olympics — Sapporo, Japan

One of the lesser known American clubs, the 1972 team was quite a good one. It got Team USA back on the podium in the hockey tournament as the Americans claimed a surprise silver.

Among the big names on Team USA’s roster in Sapporo, Mark Howe, who was recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Robbie Ftorek and Henry Boucha were another pair of players that enjoyed solid NHL careers.

The team was immortalized in the book “Striking Silver.” You can learn more about that here.

Not a lot seemed to change between these jerseys and those from 1968.

1976 Olympics — Innsbruck, Austria

Unfortunately the 1976 club couldn’t keep the momentum rolling forward, as it finished fifth in Innsbruck. The team included future 1980 Olympian Buzz Schneider.

I couldn’t seem to find a verifiable photo of the 1976 Olympic jerseys, so I’ll keep working on that and update if I can.

Updated: A friend sent me this picture, which I believe are the jerseys they wore throughout the Olympics. Badger Bob Johnson is in the red jacket on the far left.

As you can see, these are a lot closer to what the team wore in the 1980. I really like the striping on these and the bold USA on the front.

That same friend also sent this and I just had to include it because it’s my favorite obscure jersey in hockey. These were most definitely worn during the 1976 Canada Cup, a nd I believe the guys in the picture below are also the 1976 Olympic Team. I’m trying to get more background on this though. Until then, enjoy! From what I gathered, this team below is the 1976 Canada Cup team, so the jerseys above are your 1976 Olympic jerseys. The Canada Cup team featured many players from the Olympic team as well.

The Eagle and USA crest is so great, while the red stars on white shoulder pads and barber pole socks are just… wow. These things are infamous and I used to hate them, but I’ve grown to love them, not in an aesthetic sense though. They’re just so great because they existed at all and people wore them in competition. I love the 1970s. What an era for hockey.

1980 Olympics –Lake Placid, N.Y.

This team needs no introduction. You already know the story. Twenty years after Team USA claimed its first Olympic gold, a group of U.S. college players shocked the world in beating the Soviet Union and Finland consecutively to win gold, ending the USSR’s run of four straight titles.

What I love about this iconic team is also the jerseys. Team USA was wearing white when it beat the Soviets, in their traditional red, which seems fitting for the time. The U.S. jerseys are also very simple, with a gigantic USA across the front.

The blue shoulders and white stars are a nice accent and really until looking at them more carefully, the most underrated part of the jersey is the blue under white for the name bars. Just a slick look. I like the whites a lot better than the blues, so I’m glad all the most memorable photos from this tournament are in the whites.

Here’s a closer look at the whites via sportscollectorsdaily.com.

1984 Olympics — Sarajevo, Yugoslavia

Four years after the greatest victory in American sports history, the 1984 U.S. Olympic team finished a disappointing and shocking seventh. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been as big a surprise since this U.S. team was so young.

Among those on the roster, a 22-year-old Chris Chelios, if you can believe he was ever that young. The team also had the famed “Diaper Line” of Dave Jensen, Eddie Olczyk and the great Pat LaFontaine. Also part of the squad, Al Iafrate. So this was quite the cast of characters, and a lot of guys that went on to great NHL careers.

The 1984 jerseys brought about the return of the diagonal USA, and the home whites brought in a lot more red. The blue jerseys are a little bit better I think. (Photo via Vintage Minnesota Hockey)

Here’s a look at the blue jerseys in action as Eddie Olczyk scores in a pre-Olympic Tour game against the Washington Capitals.

1988 Olympics — Calgary, Alberta

The U.S. got the same result in 1988 as it did in 1984 with a seventh-place finish as the Soviet Union once again claimed gold. This team featured a lot more familiar names to modern-day hockey fans.

Among the notable NHL stars who dotted the 1988 roster, Mike Richter, Brian Leetch, Tony Granato, Craig Janney and Eric Weinrich.

Also on the team, 2014 Olympics assistant coach Peter Laviolette and USA Hockey’s senior director Jim Johannson, who is also on the Olympic staff.

This was the debut of the Waving S logo at the Olympics. It would be used until 2006 as the primary logo. I’ve always liked it as I think it incorporates all the national colors appropriately and implements that flag feel to it.

Here’s a look at the white jerseys in action against the USSR…

1992 Olympics — Albertville, France

This was a pretty darn good hockey team. After going through the preliminary round 4-0-1, Team USA made it all the way to the semis. There they met the Unified Team, made up of the countries from the now-defunct Soviet Union. Tied 2-2 heading into the third, some questionable officiating put the Unified Team on consecutive power plays. They scored three times to take a 5-2 win. Team USA then lost to Czechoslovakia 6-1 in the bronze medal game.

The team featured many future NHLers including the likes of Keith Tkachuk, Scott Young, Scott Gordon, Sean McEachern, Sean Hill, Bret Hedican and plenty more. However, one of the biggest bright spots for Team USA was its starting goalie, Ray LeBlanc. He had one of the shortest NHL careers ever, but boy was he good in Albertville.

There wasn’t much difference between jerseys in 1988 and 1992, but here’s a fun photo via the fantastic Third String Goalie blog, a great resource for jersey fiends.

Also, the 1992 team was part of one of my favorite obscure hockey things ever…

1994 Olympics — Lillehammer, Norway

There was only a two-year break as the IOC decided to hold the Winter and Summer Olympics in alternating cycles so that they were not held in the same year. That meant the Winter Olympics got pushed up.

Team USA finished a disappointing eighth in Lillehammer as Sweden won its first gold in dramatic fashion over Canada — a shootout featuring Peter Forsberg’s signature goal.

Among the Americans on this roster, Brian Rolston, Garth Snow, Todd Marchant, Mike Dunham. Peter Laviolette also made his second Olympic appearance on the club, which was coached by the late great Tim Taylor.

For the USA jerseys Reebok had the rights to the Olympic threads for all teams, so there were some differences from the previous two jerseys including giant Reebok logo on both shoulders and some giant cube-like numbers (which I hate).

Here’s Brian Rolston scoring a goal against Sweden and Forsberg getting roughed up to give you a good look at Team USA’s blues.

1998 Olympics — Nagano, Japan

Nagano marked the first time NHL players were allowed to participate in the Olympics. Women’s hockey also made its debut in 1998, which was great for women’s hockey worldwide, but particularly in the USA.

The men had an utterly forgettable and embarrassing tournament, finishing sixth just two years after winning the World Cup of Hockey. The women meanwhile won gold.

This was also a pretty forgettable year as far as jerseys go as well. These Nike unis were pretty darn ugly, with a lot going on.

Well, the USA crest inside the circle is just unnecessary. You can’t see it in the picture, but the grey under the arms is very holey mesh. The grey is just a weird fit at all. I actually did like the numbers on this one, though. (Photo via nextimpulsesports.com)

This women’s team is still the last to win Olympic gold for the U.S. and featured greats like Cammi Granato and Karen Bye, as well as a 18-year-old Angela Ruggiero. Photo via IIHF.

2002 Olympics — Salt Lake City, Utah

With redemption on their minds and home ice to defend, the U.S. men had a much, much better showing than in Nagano. Unfortunately for both the men and the women, it would end in silver.

It’s been somewhat forgotten, but the 2002 Olympic tournament was extremely exciting. That U.S. team was a lot of fun to watch, both were, really.

The men’s team also represented the last breath of that greatest generation of players like Mike Richter, Brian Leetch, Chris Chelios, John LeClair, Mike Modano, Jeremy Roenick, Phil Housley and so many more.

These jerseys weren’t the best either, since I prefer the more traditional horizontal striping as opposed to what’s going on here, but I do like the big USA crest and the dark blues were pretty solid. Photo of Jeremy Roenick via Whatifsports.com.

The whites were even better, for my money. Again, the lack of horizontal stripes kind of hurts, but that USA logo really pops on this jersey. Photo of Natalie Darwitz via gophersports.com.

2006 Olympics — Turin, Italy

This was another rather forgettable Olympics for the men and was as well for the women, who were stunned by Sweden to get relegated to playing for bronze, which they won. The men, however, with a fairly weak roster, tied for the worst finish by a U.S. team in any Olympics — eighth.

The previous Olympics was the signalling of the end of an era, while 2006 was trying desperately to cling to the past. Mike Modano, Doug Weight, Bill Guerin, Chris Chelios, Keith Tkachuk and Brian Rolston were all part of that greatest generation, but were also all past their prime years.

This was also the dawn of the Nike Swift jersey, as displayed by Bret Hedican (via vanityfair.com).

These jerseys once again do a good job of making the U.S. logo a prominent feature and the blue jerseys are far better than the whites, but there’s not a lot else to like. The vertical striping on the arms and the sides of the jersey were certainly unique and on the cutting edge, but hockey is a more traditional sport. These ended up looking more like practice jerseys.

I don’t think I hate these as much as I know some people do, but this is one of the bigger misses in Olympic jersey history.

2010 Olympics — Vancouver B.C.

That brings us back to the most recent Olympics. Again, a solid showing by both U.S. teams, but again, both achieved silver, falling just short on Canadian ice. That said, I don’t know if any Olympic games did more for hockey in the country as these with the exception of 1960 and 1980. Men’s hockey was among the most watched event of the entire games and set modern-day ratings records.

These Olympics marked the end of the Waving S on Team USA jerseys. Forced to discard the brand in favor of something simpler, the U.S. did a really nice job with these jerseys, as did Nike.

Photo via USATSI. The blue jerseys I thought were the best of the two. They have the simple USA across the front with the stars on the shoulders. There’s more intricate tattooing on the jersey that is hard to see from afar and the words “Home of the Free, Land of the Brave” can be found inside the cuffs.

For what they did with these jerseys on relatively short notice, you have to give credit to all parties. From the numbers, to the striping to the wordmark, all hit well.

The U.S. also wore the 1960 throwback jerseys which were just terrific, of course (Photo via ReviewSTL).

These are also the jerseys I seem to see fans wearing the most from these Olympics. They didn’t really deviate much from the original design, which again, is in my opinion the best they’ve ever had.


The American Underdogs

The Americans were underdogs, but they were competitive. Brooks suggested that a bronze medal was within reach. Then came a pre-Olympic exhibition game against the Soviets. The wide-eyed Americans were manhandled 10-3. Brooks blamed himself, saying his game plan was too conservative.

At Lake Placid, Team USA began tentatively against Sweden, but a last-minute goal by Bill Baker salvaged a 2-2 tie. A 7-3 win over Czechoslovakia boosted confidence. The momentum grew with victories against Norway and Romania and a 4-2 comeback win over Germany.

The Soviets went undefeated in their group, of course, although they fell behind against Finland and Canada before rallying late to win each game. Such stumbles appeared little cause for concern. The group standings set up the scenario the Americans had been hoping to avoid: their first opponent in the medal round was the USSR.


Look at 'Miracle on Ice' players after Lake Placid

With the perspective of 37 years, the "Miracle on Ice" can seem even more miraculous now than it did in 1980, when a team of United States college kids and amateurs stunned the world by winning the gold medal at the Lake Placid Olympics. Their 6-0-1 record included an unforgettable 4-3 victory against the supposedly unbeatable Soviet Union in their next-to-last game, followed by a come-from-behind 4-2 win against Finland 36 hours later for the gold.

Coach Herb Brooks knitted a collection of disparate skills and personalities into a cohesive unit that did what most people thought would be impossible. Perhaps most amazing were the players he won with: Of the 20 players, five had a substantial NHL career -- and seven never played an NHL game.

Lengthy NHL career (500+ games)

The oldest of the three Broten brothers to play in the NHL, he had the most points of any of the 20 Olympians. One year after winning gold with the U.S. at Lake Placid, Broten was playing for the Minnesota North Stars in the Stanley Cup Final. He scored 38 goals and 98 points as an NHL rookie in 1981-82, had an NHL career-high 105 points in 1985-86 and got his Stanley Cup four months after being traded to the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 27, 1995. Broten had 923 points (289 goals, 634 assists) in 1,099 NHL games.

Christian, whose father and uncle helped the U.S. win gold in 1960, went right from Lake Placid to the Winnipeg Jets, scoring eight goals in 15 games at the end of the 1979-80 season. He spent 15 seasons in the NHL with the Jets, Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, scoring 20 or more goals 10 times, including a career best of 41 with Washington in 1985-86. Christian retired in 1994 with 773 points (340 goals, 433 assists) in 1,009 NHL games.

The son of legendary coach Bob Johnson had 11 points (five goals, six assists) in seven games to lead the U.S. in scoring at Lake Placid. Two of the goals came in the win against the Soviet Union, including one that beat the first-period buzzer and tied the game 2-2. Johnson joined the Pittsburgh Penguins right after Lake Placid and played 669 NHL games with five teams, finishing with 508 points (203 goals, 305 assists). Johnson found success after his playing career as coach of the women's team at the University of Wisconsin, winning the NCAA championship four times.

Morrow has a distinction unlikely to be matched in hockey history: He went from a gold medal-winning Olympic team directly to one that won the Stanley Cup four years in a row. Morrow's arrival enabled New York Islanders general manager Bill Torrey to trade reliable defenseman Dave Lewis to the Los Angeles Kings in a deal that brought back center Butch Goring, who turned out to be the missing piece for New York. Morrow was a defensive defenseman who spent 10 seasons and played 550 games with the Islanders before injuries forced him to retire at age 32.

Ramsey didn't have to travel far to join his NHL team after the U.S. won the gold medal he went from Lake Placid to the Buffalo Sabres, who had selected him in the first round (No. 11) in the 1979 NHL Draft. Ramsey became a fixture on defense for more than a decade in Buffalo. He never reached double figures in goals, and his single-season high for points was 39, but he was among the most reliable defensive defensemen in the NHL until he retired after playing the last two of his 1,070 NHL games for the Detroit Red Wings in 1996-97.

Shorter NHL career (100-500 games)

The hero of the tournament-opening 2-2 tie with Sweden (his late goal gave the U.S. a point), was a third-round selection (No. 54) by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1976 draft. He played 11 games for the Canadiens in 1980-81 before being traded to the Colorado Rockies. Colorado traded him to St. Louis in 1981-82, and he scored his first three NHL goals with the Blues. Baker played 70 of his 143 NHL games for the New York Rangers in 1982-83, but after one more season in the minors, he left hockey to become an oral surgeon.

The Minnesota native was an instant hit with the hometown North Stars after Lake Placid, finishing with 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 20 regular-season games. He scored 26 goals in each of the next two seasons and had 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) to help the North Stars advance to the 1981 Stanley Cup Final (a five-game loss to Morrow and the Islanders). Though Christoff was popular in Minnesota, the North Stars traded him to the Calgary Flames on June 7, 1982. He played one season with the Flames and one with the Kings before retiring, having scored 77 goals in 248 games.

McClanahan never showed the kind of offensive skills in the NHL that he'd demonstrated with the U.S. national and Olympic teams. He joined the Sabres after the Olympics but saw action in more than 53 games in an NHL season just once in 1982-83, playing for Brooks with the Rangers, McClanahan had 48 points (22 goals, 26 assists) in 78 games. He split the 1983-84 season between the Rangers and Tulsa of the Central Hockey League before retiring after scoring 101 points (38 goals, 63 assists) in 224 NHL games.

An injury limited O'Callahan, who had starred at Boston University, to four games at Lake Placid. After two seasons in the American Hockey League, O'Callahan joined the Blackhawks, who had taken him in the sixth round (No. 96) in the 1977 draft. O'Callahan played five seasons with Chicago and two with the New Jersey before retiring in 1989 after playing 389 NHL games.

No NHL team had drafted Pavelich, so after helping the U.S. win gold at Lake Placid, he spent the 1980-81 season playing in Switzerland. The Rangers, now coached by Brooks, signed him for the 1981-82 season, and he was an immediate hit Pavelich scored 33, 37 and 29 goals in his first three seasons, and became the first U.S. player to score five goals in a game on Feb. 23, 1983. He played six seasons with the Rangers and one with the North Stars, and then played three seasons in Europe before finishing his career by playing two games with the San Jose Sharks in 1991-92. Pavelich had 329 points (137 goals, 192 assists) in 355 NHL games.

The Rangers had drafted Silk in the fourth round (No. 59) in 1978, and he signed with New York on March 3, 1980. The Boston native spent three seasons with the Rangers organization before he was traded to the Bruins on Oct. 5, 1983. He also played with Detroit and Winnipeg before finishing his career by playing in Germany for five seasons, retiring in 1991. Silk had 113 points (54 goals, 59 assists) in 249 NHL games.

Short NHL career

Craig's performance in goal was probably the biggest reason for the U.S. victory, but his success at Lake Placid didn't carry over to the NHL. After the Olympics, Craig joined the Atlanta Flames, who had taken him in the fourth round (No. 72) of the 1977 draft. He won his NHL debut with the Flames, defeating the Rockies 4-1 in front of a packed house in Atlanta, but went 1-2-1 in four appearances before being traded to the Bruins on June 2, 1980. The Boston-area native went 9-7-6 with the Bruins in 1980-81, and then spent two seasons in the minors before playing three games with the North Stars in 1983-84. Craig went 11-10-7 with a 3.78 goals-against average in 30 NHL games.

Craig's backup was the only U.S. player who never saw any ice time during the 1980 Olympics. He played three NHL games, going 0-1-1 with a 5.63 GAA with the North Stars and Rockies.

Never played in NHL

The former Boston University star who scored the goal that defeated the Soviet Union had never been drafted by an NHL team he played two seasons in the minors before joining the 1980 Olympic team. Eruzione reportedly had an offer to join the Rangers after Lake Placid but opted to retire instead.

Harrington played in the minors and overseas after Lake Placid. He played for the U.S. at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics, then spent two decades as a college coach and three more seasons coaching overseas.

The only holdover from the 1976 U.S. Olympic team, Schneider scored five goals in seven games in 1980, including one in the win against the Soviet Union. He had played four games in the World Hockey Association during the 1976-77 season but never played in the NHL. After Lake Placid, he played in Switzerland until 1983.

Strobel had three points (one goal, two assists) for the U.S. at Lake Placid, then signed with the Sabres and was sent to Rochester of the AHL. He broke his ankle a month later and played briefly in the minors the following season before retiring.

Suter didn't have a point at the Olympics and never played an NHL game despite having been drafted by the Kings and later signing with the North Stars. He became a youth hockey coach and later scouted for the Minnesota Wild, who signed his son, defenseman Ryan Suter , on July 4, 2012. Bob Suter died Sept. 10, 2014 he was the first player from the 1980 team to pass away.

The former University of Minnesota star scored the biggest of his three goals at Lake Placid in the third period of the final game against Finland, converting a pass from Christian to tie the game 2-2. He played for a season in Finland, later rejoined the U.S. national team and played in the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics before retiring.

Wells starred at Bowling Green University and had three points (two goals, one assist) in seven games at Lake Placid. He played two-plus seasons in the minor leagues before retiring from hockey.


The Making of the “Miracle on Ice” - an Interview with Hockey Hall of Famer Lou Nanne

For two weeks in February of 1980, twenty young athletes determined to do the impossible, gave the United States a respite from the Cold War, the economic malaise of the 1970s, and the hostage crisis in Iran. In arguably the greatest upset in sports history, the 1980 United States Olympic Hockey Team defeated the Soviet Union and then went on to clinch the gold medal against Finland. The sports world was shocked and the “Miracle on Ice” was complete.

In this interview, Lou Nanne, a key influencer of the team, takes us back nearly 40 years and tells the story of the 1980 “Miracle” team, his involvement in securing Herb Brooks as the head coach of the Olympic team, and how the team was best prepared to face the international competition through innovative practice routines and training methods. Lou describes the nervousness and atmosphere during the game against the Soviet Union and the reactions afterwards. He also reminds us of how isolated players and fans were in Lake Placid during the Olympic Games. Social media didn’t exist, games were not televised live, and there was very little indication of what the rest of the world knew or felt about this historical run.

Lou Nanne has been a leading figure in the hockey community for decades. Lou was captain of the 1968 United States Olympic Hockey team. Later he played, coached, and served as general manager for the Minnesota North Stars. Lou is a member of the United States Hockey Hall of Fame and the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame. He has also been awarded the Lester Patrick trophy for his impact on the sport of hockey.

Topics Discussed in Part One: Lou’s athletic career, becoming coach for the Minnesota North Stars, the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team, involving Herb Brooks in coaching and the Olympic Team, placing the Olympic Team into the Central League for training and exposure, innovative conditioning routines for the Olympic team, Team USA as an underdog in 1980, building team chemistry

Topics Discussed in Part Two: Madison Square Garden Exhibition Game, Expectations for the 1980 US Hockey team, media coverage of the Olympic games, the atmosphere before the game against the Soviets, Herb Brooks as a coach, winning against the Soviets, wearing the Team USA jersey, becoming an American citizen, managing the North Stars, talent selection for hockey prospects, playing with injuries, drafting young players that are undeveloped, transitioning to a management role for your former peers, applying lessons from hockey to the business world, recognizing the importance of teamwork in success, motivating your team, going to college for dentistry (and to play hockey).

People, Organizations and Resources Mentioned: University of Minnesota, John Mariucci, Minnesota North Stars, New York Rangers, US Olympic Hockey Team, Herb Brooks, Glen Sonmor, Marsh Ryman, Walter Bush, Central League, Bud Poile, Russian Hockey Team, Chuck Blatherwick, 1972 Summit Series, Canadian All-Star Team, 1980 Olympics, Madison Square Gardens, Lake Placid NY, Bud Grant, Minnesota Vikings, Tom McCarthy, Wayne Gretzky, John Ferguson, Montreal Canadiens

To watch the 1980 Olympic Hockey Game between USA and USSR, click here.

“No one knew the ceiling that they could reach. And they just were so well conditioned, so well coached, so well prepared, that they reached levels that were truly unexpected.”

-Lou Nanne on the victory of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team and the keys to their success.


Olympic Hockey Legend Recounts Original 'Miracle On Ice' 06:27

Bill Cleary, left, scores a goal against the Soviet Union in the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, Calif. Cleary&#39s brother, Bob, far right, was also on the team. (Courtesy Bill Cleary)

Standing in his living room, surrounded by windows, 75-year-old Bill Cleary looks out onto a frozen stretch of the Charles River where a small group of people are skating, hockey sticks in hand, passing around a puck. A German shepherd fruitlessly chases the small black disc. A lone woman floats by on figure skates. A light snow falls, and memories come to life.

"We didn't have any indoor rinks when we were kids," Cleary recalls. "We had to learn on the Charles River &mdash I did because I grew up in Cambridge &mdash on Spy Pond in Arlington and all these little places in Lexington and Concord. We'd find ice wherever it was."

As it turns out, such limitations were perfect training for the young hockey player. When Cleary grew up and played hockey for the United States internationally, all of the competition was held outdoors, rain or shine. "We played in Stockholm one night," Clearly says. "Twenty-five thousand people, in a snow storm! But it was great!"

Bill Cleary, at home in Newton, displays the silver medal he won at the 1956 Olympics and his &quotmiracle&quot gold medal from the 1960 Olympics. (Karen Pelland/WBUR

And it was outside, on natural ice, that the U.S. men's hockey team stunned the world by winning Olympic gold at the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley, Calif. Cleary was the team's high scorer, and the improbable victory has since become known as the original "Miracle on Ice".

Most people remember the "Miracle on Ice" circa 1980 when the U.S. won Olympic gold in Lake Placid. Actually, the comparisons are striking both squads were largely, if not solely, made up of Bostonians and Minnesotans, both squads were huge underdogs to win and both knocked off the big, bad Soviet Union in the semi-finals to do it.

But few remember the '60 Olympics. It was the first year television even broadcast the Games. Anchored by newsman Walter Cronkite, CBS aired a whole 13 hours of mostly taped footage and highlights, in black and white no less. One of the few live broadcasts just happened to be the spectacular gold medal hockey game between the U.S. and Czechoslovakia. The Americans were losing 4-3, but a blinding six-goal rally in the third period sealed the deal.

The official photo of the 1960 USA hockey team. The photo had to be doctored to include the faces of latecomers Bill and Bob Cleary and John Mayasich.

Bill Cleary is best known as the All-American player and legendary coach for the Harvard University men's hockey team. The star forward decided against going pro in the mid-'50s, despite invitations from the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens.

"It's probably the best thing I ever did, turning that down, because if I hadn't I would never have played in two Olympic Games," says Cleary, who was also on the silver medal team in 1956 in Cortina, Italy. "Knowing what I know now, I could win 10 Stanley Cups and that wouldn't equal just marching in the parade in 1956."

Cleary laments the addition of NHL players to Olympic rosters. "The only reason the pros are in it is because of money," he groans.

Money and sponsorships &mdash it's a slap in the face to the intended Olympic spirit, as Cleary sees it. "It's not Michael Jordan and Barkley going up to the podium wondering whether they're going to wear Reebok or Adidas," he says. "That's not what the Olympics are about. It's about people. It's about competition. I often said that I think athletes can do more good than politicians, getting people together and producing harmony and spirit among people in different cultures. And I've seen it happen. I've seen it happen."

Click the "Listen Now" button above to hear the interview with Bill Cleary.


A glorious moment recalled: 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice’

Thirty four years ago Saturday, American sports fans witnessed a miracle.

The United States hockey team met the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympic hockey tournament in what would become known as the “Miracle on Ice.” The U.S. win stands as a legendary moment in American sports history. It was, in the simplest form of the word, an upset — one of unfathomable proportions.

The U.S. team was made up almost completely of college-age kids, while the Soviets were, in today’s parlance, grown-ass men who, under Olympics amateur rules of the day, were not considered professional athletes even though they were paid by the USSR to play hockey.

The outcome was so ovewhelming that over the years, some details surrounding it have been twisted into mythology.

On live TV? Hah!

It was not the gold medal game but a semifinal game. The winner played for gold. It was not televised live in the U.S. (although it was in Canada, bless their hockey-loving hearts). ABC wanted to televise it live, but only if the game could be moved to the TV-friendly time of 8 p.m. EST. The Soviets said “nyet.” The game was to begin at 5 p.m., and as far as they were concerned (keep in mind they were the REALLY Big Red back then) it would start at 5.

The fact that the game was on delay wasn’t a big deal. ESPN was less than a year old. Cable TV didn’t exist in the fashion it does now and most homes only had access to three or four channels. Al Gore hadn’t invented the Internet yet, so people were accustomed to watching things when told. People listening to radio might have heard the final score, but the vast majority of those who tuned in that night either didn’t know the result or thought the broadcast was live.

Then there’s this: Hockey wasn’t a very big deal. Americans were into the Olympics and wanted the USA to win, but there was no huge buildup for this game. That the U.S. had made it into the semifinals raised a few eyebrows. Most knowledgeable fans figured the Soviets would win easily, but the knockout format of the tourney gave the underdogs a puncher’s chance. It wasn’t as if a majority of American sports fans were sitting on the edge of their easy chairs waiting for the game to start.

The Olympics site, the tiny village of Lake Placid, NY., added to the lore. No live TV, no Internet, no cell phones, and a remote location — it was one of the last great sports stories that happened before the transformation to the information age.

The play-by-play call was by Al Michaels, a young sportscaster who recently had risen to the network level. He was not an unknown, but he was far from a household name. Prior to the Olympic tournament, he had done ONE hockey game in his career, for NBC in the 1972 Olympics. He was tabbed for this assignment because of that game and because he had been a lifelong fan of the sport. Other options included Keith Jackson and Howard Cosell.

Right man for the call

It is accurate to say Michaels rose to the occasion. His performance on the broadcast is arguably still the pinnacle of live televised sports. His simple six-word question and answer at the end of the game — “Do you believe in miracles? YES!” — became the phrase that summed and symbolized Team USA’s effort and is, understandably, the only thing most people remember about the broadcast.

But watching the game, particularly the final 10 minutes after the U.S. took the lead, is a delight. Michaels realized he was in on history and delivered a performance worthy of the game.

The U.S. either trailed or was tied for the entire game until, with 10 minutes left, Mike Eruzione rifled home a shot that gave the Yanks their first first and only lead, 4-3. Much was made after the game about Michaels’ decision to not say a word for 56 seconds after his “miracle” line. But he also was perfectly understated after Eruzione’s goal, pausing for 26 seconds before delivering a line nearly the equal of his game-ender.

“Now,” Michaels says above the din, “we’ve got bedlam.”

At that point, the narrative improbably turned around. Going into the tournament, conventional wisdom was that no group of college kids would compete with, let alone defeat, the older and much more experienced Soviets. But with the lead, the USA played the final 10 minutes with energy and passion, while the Russians suddenly started looking old and tired.

After the lead: ‘Play your game’

Viewers had a wonderful glimpse into the U.S. strategy to keep pushing the action after taking the lead when a camera near the bench zoomed in on coach Herb Brooks, who is picked up on a mic delivering simple instructions to his team: “Play your game, son. Play your game. Play your game. Play your game.”

Tension grew as the clock ticked slowly toward the end. With 5:16 to play, Michaels did a beautiful job of adding context by pointing out the Soviets just two weeks earlier defeated the U.S. 10-3 in a pre-Olympics exhibition at New York’s Madison Square Garden. He nervously adds, “The U.S. is leading 4-3, but Canada led the Soviets after two periods and Finland led with only five minutes left the other night.”

Michaels channels his inner fan in the game’s final two and a half minutes. Starting at the 2:25 mark he does what every hockey fan does in a must-win game where his team has a one-goal lead: He begins watching the clock. He gives the time remaining an astonishing 19 times in the final 2:25.

(The so-called “score bug,” the graphics box that shows score and time and appears in a corner of all TV screens now, was not yet in use, so Michaels was providing a service to viewers.)

With 1:12 left, Michaels again delivered a quick piece of contextual information, pointing out that the Soviets, in late 1979 on a tour to prepare for the Olympics, defeated the New York Rangers, New York Islanders and Quebec Nordiques of the NHL. He really punched the line, ramming home the absurd notion of what is about to happen.

In the final minute, Michaels becomes obsessed with the clock. He mentions the time at :55, :43, :38, :37, :28, :19 and :11 seconds. He then winds up and delivers maybe the greatest broadcasting John Hancock ever.

“You’ve got 10 seconds left, the countdown going on right now, Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds. Do you believe in miracles? YES!”

Who needed words?

What happened next remains as one of the greatest sequences in TV sports history. It’s inconceivable today, when most announcers seem to feel they get paid by the word, but Michaels went silent for 56 beautiful seconds. Shot after shot was shown of the deliriously happy U.S. team mixed with a couple shots of the stunned Russians. When Michaels finally spoke he delivered yet another classic line: “No words necessary, just pictures.”

The game over, ABC eventually shifted from the scene at the arena to the studio. There, the legendary Jim McKay sat with a stunned look.

“If you think I feel like an objective reporter right now,” McKay began, “you don’t know me very well, and I think after all these years you know me pretty well. What an achievement. That may be the greatest upset in sports history. Try to imagine, if American football was played at the Summer Olympic games. Then imagine an all-star team of Canadian college boys beating the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s that big of an upset.”

McKay’s postscript put a perfect bow on a broadcast that, all these years later, stands the test of time, just as the game.

May 17 marks the diamond anniversary of the first televised sports event in American history. In 1939, Princeton beat Columbia 2-1 in a baseball game played at Baker Field in Manhattan and broadcast on what would become WNBC-TV.

Saturday, 75 years later, after millions of hours of televised games and billions of words (23 percent from Dick Vitale alone), there’s little arguing that the seminal moment in televised sports happened 34 years ago and likely will never be topped.


Contents

Herb Brooks (Kurt Russell), head ice hockey coach at the University of Minnesota, interviews with the United States Olympic Committee for the national team coach's job, discussing his philosophy on how to beat the Soviet team, calling for changes to the practice schedule and strategy. The USOC is skeptical, but ultimately gives Brooks the job.

Brooks meets his assistant coach Craig Patrick (Noah Emmerich) at the tryouts in Colorado Springs. Brooks selects a preliminary roster of 26, indifferent to the preferences of senior USOC hockey officials, after only a day. Needing to cut the roster to 20 before the Olympics, he convinces USOC executive director Walter Bush (Sean McCann) that he has their best interests at heart. Bush reluctantly agrees to take the heat from the committee for Brooks' decisions.

During the initial practice, tempers flare as forward Rob McClanahan (Nathan West) and defenseman Jack O'Callahan (Michael Mantenuto) get into a fight based on college rivalry. Brooks allows the fight to go on so they can get the bad blood out of their systems and then he bluntly tells all the players that they are to let go of old rivalries and start becoming a team. He then calls for introductions and the players each tell their name, hometown and which team they play for. As practices continue, Brooks uses unorthodox methods to winnow the roster down to 20 players. The players themselves worry about being cut at any time, knowing that Brooks himself was the last player cut from the 1960 Olympic hockey team that won the gold medal, so he will do anything to win.

During an exhibition game against Norway in Oslo that ends in a 3–3 tie, Brooks notices the players are distracted and not playing up to their potential. After the game, he orders them back on the ice for a bag skate. Brooks has them skate from one end of the ice to the other several times (doing, in other words, his infamous "Herbies," as the team would call them colloquially), continuing the drill even after the rink manager cuts the power. Exhausted, forward and team captain Mike Eruzione (Patrick O'Brien Demsey) re-introduces himself in the same matter from the initial practice and cries out that he plays for the United States. Getting the answer he wanted all along, Brooks finally tells the players they are done. Eventually, the team comes together, with the players thinking of themselves as a family representing the United States. With their roster finalized, just before heading to Lake Placid, the Americans play the Soviets in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden. The Soviets manhandle the young American team, winning by a score of 10–3. During the game, O'Callahan receives an injury that could keep him out of the entire Olympics, and starting goaltender Jim Craig (Eddie Cahill) is shockingly told he may be benched in favor of backup Steve Janaszak (Sam Skoryna). Brooks tells him that he hasn't been giving his very best and ultimately decides to keep Craig as the starter for the Olympics.

As the 1980 Winter Olympics begins, the Americans trail Sweden 2–1 in the first game. Brooks fires up the team during an intermission by accusing an injured McClanahan of quitting. McClanahan ends up playing despite his injury, which inspires the team. Bill Baker (Nick Postle) scores a goal with less than a minute remaining in the third period for a dramatic 2–2 tie. They then follow up with a 7–3 win over heavily favored Czechoslovakia. As the Olympics continue, the team defeats Norway, Romania, and West Germany to earn a spot in the medal round. The Americans are considered overwhelming underdogs to the Soviets in the first medal round game. The game begins and the Soviets score the first goal. Then O'Callahan, having healed enough from his injury, enters the game for the first time. He makes an immediate impact by heavily checking Vladimir Krutov on a play that leads to a goal by Buzz Schneider (Billy Schneider). The Soviets score again to retake the lead. In the final seconds, Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak stops a long shot by Dave Christian (Stephen Kovalcik), but Mark Johnson (Eric Peter-Kaiser) gets the rebound and scores with less than one second left in the period.

During the first intermission, Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov (Zinaid Memišević) replaces Tretiak with backup Vladimir Myshkin. In the second period, the Soviets score a goal to go up 3–2. Early in the final period, the Soviet team is called for a penalty for slashing, putting the Americans on the power play. Johnson scores his second goal of the game just as the penalty is about to expire. Later, Eruzione puts them ahead 4–3 with 10 minutes left. The Americans hold off the Soviets to win the game, completing one of the biggest upsets in sports history. Two days later, the team would go on to defeat Finland 4–2 to win the gold medal. The movie ends with Brooks staring out over his team with pride as the entire team crowds together on the gold medal platform.

Before the credits, the film is dedicated to Herb Brooks who unfortunately died right before principal photography was finished and states “He never saw it. He lived it.”

Actor Role Notes
Kurt Russell Herb Brooks U.S. Olympic hockey coach who leads the team to an Olympic gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Patricia Clarkson Patti Brooks Wife of Brooks.
Noah Emmerich Craig Patrick Assistant General Manager and Assistant Coach under Brooks.
Sean McCann Walter Bush General Manager of the U.S. Olympic hockey team.
Kenneth Welsh Doc Nagobads U.S Olympic team physician and long-time friend of Brooks.
Eddie Cahill Jim Craig U.S. Olympic team’s starting goaltender. Plays in every minute of every game.
Patrick O'Brien Demsey Mike Eruzione Forward and captain of the U.S. Olympic team. Scores the game-winning goal against the Soviets.
Michael Mantenuto Jack O'Callahan Defenseman on the U.S. Olympic team. Injures his knee in an exhibition game but returns against the Soviets and makes a key shot that leads to a U.S. goal.
Nathan West Rob McClanahan Forward on the U.S. Olympic team. Gets into a fight with O’Callahan in the first practice.
Kenneth Mitchell Ralph Cox Last player cut from the team during tryouts because Brooks can only take twenty players.
Eric Peter-Kaiser Mark Johnson Forward on the U.S. Olympic team. Scores two out of the four goals in the victory over the Soviets. Known as the most skilled player on the team. MVP of the team.
Bobby Hanson Dave Silk Forward on the U.S. Olympic team who receives a pair of silky underwear from the guys at Christmas.
Joseph Cure Mike Ramsey Defenseman and youngest player on the U.S. Olympic team.
Billy Schneider Buzz Schneider Forward on the U.S. Olympic team and part of the Conehead line. Billy is Buzz's son.
Nate Miller John Harrington Forward on the U.S. Olympic team and part of the Conehead line.
Chris Koch Mark Pavelich Forward on the U.S. Olympic team and part of the Conehead line. Assists Baker on the tying goal against Sweden and Eruzione on the game-winning goal against the Soviets.
Kris Wilson Phil Verchota Forward on the U.S. Olympic team.
Stephen Kovalcik Dave Christian Forward and defenseman on the U.S. Olympic team. Shoots the puck at Tretiak with very little time left during the first period against the Soviets. Johnson scores on the rebound.
Sam Skoryna Steve Janaszak Expected to be the top goaltender of the U.S. Olympic team after winning a national championship in 1979 and taking home the tournament MVP, but is placed behind goaltender Craig and never plays during the Olympics.
Pete Duffy Bob Suter Defenseman on the U.S. Olympic team.
Nick Postle Bill Baker Defenseman on the U.S. Olympic team who scores the game-tying goal against Sweden in the opening game of the Olympics.
Casey Burnette Ken Morrow Defenseman on the U.S. Olympic team.
Scott Johnson Steve Christoff Forward on the U.S. Olympic team.
Trevor Alto Neal Broten Forward on the U.S. Olympic team.
Robbie MacGregor Eric Strobel Forward on the U.S. Olympic team.
Joe Hemsworth Mark Wells Forward on the U.S. Olympic team.
Zinaid Memišević Viktor Tikhonov Hockey coach for the Soviet team.
Adam Knight Tim Harrer Forward brought in late to try out for the U.S. Olympic team, eventually cut.

Gavin O'Connor directed and Mark Ciardi produced the movie. Both are drawn to inspirational stories and they decided to take on the "Greatest Sports Moment of the 20th Century". [4] They chose to focus on the determination and focus of coach Herb Brooks. O'Connor knew from the beginning that he wanted to cast Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks because he needed someone with an athletic background and a fiery passion for sports. The casting of the team consisted of real hockey players to give the film a raw and accurate feel. O'Connor figured it would be easier to teach hockey players to act than to teach actors to play hockey. On-ice tryouts were held in New York, Boston, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Toronto, and Vancouver. Another tryout was held in Vancouver for the Soviet and European teams.

There are a total of 133 different hockey plays in the film. To accomplish this, the directors turned to ReelSports Solutions, who had helped with the producers on a previous movie, The Rookie. The ReelSports team referred to coach Herb Brooks for information on practices, plays, equipment, and uniform styles. Each fight and stunt scene was choreographed to ensure the actors' safety. Players went through a six-week training camp to relearn the game in older equipment. [5]

Sadly, Coach Brooks died in a car accident before the movie was released. At the end, before the credits it states, "This film is dedicated to the memory of Herb Brooks, who died shortly following principal photography. He never saw it. He lived it."

  • "Mr. Boogie"
  • "You Can Suit Yourself" by Bobby Charles
  • "Time and Time Again"
  • "Don't Fear the Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult
  • "Must of Got Lost" by The J. Geils Band
  • "Thunder Island" by Jay Ferguson
  • "Rockford Files Theme" by Mike Post
  • "Universal Logo"
  • "Nightly News Theme '82"
  • "White Christmas" by Louis Armstrong
  • "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" by Brenda Lee
  • "Bugler's Dream" by John Williams and the Boston Pops Orchestra
  • "Star-Spangled Banner" by Lauren Hart
  • "Dream On" by Aerosmith
  • "Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G, 1st movement – Allegro" by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra[6]

The movie was released with a rating of PG, meaning that Parental Guidance is suggested. [7]


Miracle? Depends Where You’re From

The Miracle on Ice is not the only miracle on ice in the history of Olympic hockey, although Americans can be forgiven for thinking otherwise. That stirring victory in 1980 by a ragtag group of collegians from Minnesota and Massachusetts in Lake Placid, N.Y., is often revisited in articles, books, ads and in two full-length film re-enactments. (Karl Malden played Herb Brooks in 1981 Kurt Russell in 2004.)

Yet the singular gaze at the Miracle does a disservice not only to the United States’ similarly surprising gold medal at the 1960 Squaw Valley Games, but also to all the other countries whose surprising Olympic ice hockey victories created indelible national memories. There have been many miracles on ice.

Soviet Union

Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, 1956

Hockey was a new sport in the Soviet Union when the country entered its first Olympic tournament in 1956. Russians had been playing bandy since before the turn of the century, but no one had played the small-rink, six-a-side version of the game until the Dinamo Moscow bandy club gave it a try in 1946. “Canadian hockey,” the Muscovites called it, and it caught on quickly.

All those long winters of skating 110-yard-long bandy rinks made the Soviets naturals at hockey, and when they made their international debut at the 1954 world championship, they won. Two years later, they were themselves a ragtag group — the Soviets wore cycling helmets and barely had enough sticks to go around — but they were still good.

Led by the legendary three-sport star Vsevolod Bobrov, the Soviets swept all six games to set up what amounted to a gold medal game versus the Canadians, who were represented by the amateur champion Kitchener-Waterloo Dutchmen.

The Canadians knocked down Bobrov repeatedly in the first period, and he sat out the second period. But the Soviets remained flawless nonetheless in a 2-0 victory, getting goals from the Dinamo linemates Yuri Krylov and Valentin Kuzin and a shutout from goalie Nikolai Puchkov.

“We were amazed by the precision of their offensive movements,” Canada Coach Bobby Bauer said. “Russia has emerged as a world power of hockey.”

A pattern was established that would endure for more than 30 years. The Soviets would dominate international hockey through skill and creativity, often in the face of physical intimidation.

Going into these Games, the Canadians, the Soviets and the Americans had won gold — even Britain won once, in 1936, with a team that consisted mainly of players born in Britain who had moved to Canada in childhood. But never the hockey-playing nation of Sweden.

And it looked as if it would stay that way, with the Swedes trailing Canada, 2-1, with just two minutes left in the gold medal game. But just then, defenseman Magnus Svensson struck for a power-play goal, and Sweden had life.

A 10-minute overtime session settled nothing, so it was on to a penalty shootout, the first in Olympic hockey history. In those days, the shootout was rare, used only to decide games in the knockout stage of international competitions.

The teams traded shots and goals in the shootout, and it came down to Peter Forsberg, a 20-year-old No. 1 N.H.L. draft choice still playing for his hometown team in Ornskoldsvik. He bore in on Canada goalie Corey Hirsch, rotated about 120 degrees to his left as he glided past, and deposited the puck in the net one-handed.

That shot, and Tommy Salo’s subsequent stop on Paul Kariya on Canada’s last shot, won gold for Sweden and set off celebrations in Stockholm and across the nation. Forsberg became a hero, and the overhead photograph of that amazing goal was turned into a famous Swedish postage stamp.

Czech Republic

The euphoria of the 1989 Velvet Revolution, when Czechoslovakia peaceably threw off Soviet rule, had abated by the time of the Games. It was replaced by the Velvet Divorce that split the country into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and by subsequent disillusionment.

But the country’s spirits were lifted by the hockey team’s performance at Nagano. The Czechs made it to the semifinals against mighty Canada and shockingly held a 1-0 lead because of the spectacular goaltending of Dominik Hasek. Canada tied the score with less than a minute left, but still the Czechs hung on, and in the shootout, Hasek acrobatically stopped Theo Fleury, Ray Bourque, Joe Nieuwendyk, Eric Lindros and Brendan Shanahan to send the Czechs to the final.

There they beat Russia, their old bête noire, 1-0, the only goal scored by Petr Svoboda, whose name means “freedom” in Czech. In Prague, a huge crowd watching on big screens in Old Town Square exploded with joy.

Those days in Nagano and Prague became a proud national touchstone. And while the United States’ 1980 hockey triumph was transformed into earnest biopics, the Czechs’ 1998 triumph was rendered as something more fittingly Bohemian: a popular comic opera, the part of Hasek played by a singing, tumbling acrobat.

Canada had not won gold in Olympic hockey since 1952, and despite an impressive record in international play, always bore the nagging memory of big losses to the Russians, the Czechs and the Americans. Even the Canadian women, the world leaders, had lost to the United States in their first Olympic competition four years earlier.

Now Wayne Gretzky was running the men’s team, and he was serious about ending the drought, even if it was to be on American ice. He assembled a team awesome in its talent, captained by Mario Lemieux, assisted by Steve Yzerman and Joe Sakic and backstopped by Martin Brodeur.

The key ingredient, though, may have been the loonie in the rink. The expert Canadian icemaker Trent Evans embedded the $1 coin, change from a cash register at a Tim Hortons in Edmonton, Alberta, below the ice at the face-off dot at center ice.

That loonie came to be seen as a magical talisman when the Canadian women edged the Americans, 3-2, in the final. One day later, the Canadian men beat the Americans, 5-2, to sweep the hockey golds.

As jubilant fans sang “O Canada,” the CBC announcer Bob Cole called the final seconds of the men’s game. “Now after 50 years, it’s time for Canada to stand up and cheer,” he said. “Stand up and cheer everybody! The Olympics, Salt Lake City 2002, men’s ice hockey, gold medal: Canada!”


Miracle on Ice still resonates 34 years later

The United States' hockey team's stunning 4-3 upset of the Soviet Union in the 1980 Games in Lake Placid, N.Y. is still considered one of the greatest moments in Olympic and sports history.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Nearly everyone old enough to recognize its significance remembers where they were the day the United States Olympic men’s hockey team stunned the Soviet Union 4-3 on its way to the gold medal on Feb. 22 at the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, N.Y. It’s one of those seminal moments in American history, so charged with emotion and imagery that it serves as a permanent bookmark in our past.

But what about the 20 players, the coaches and the staff who actually were there? How does the moment resonate for them 34 years later?

"As you go along in your career, in hockey or elsewhere, you really appreciate the team aspect of how we played, how unselfish players were on that team," said team member Neal Broten, who also had a successful, 1,099-game NHL career with the Minnesota North Stars, Dallas Stars, New Jersey Devils and Los Angeles Kings. "When you get to the NHL, some players can get a bit selfish. They like to score goals and make more money. On that team, there were no selfish players. We played a team game. That was a blast."

As the 2014 Winter Games open in Sochi, Russia, 10 members of the Miracle on Ice team will attend an Olympic send-off event and ceremonial puck drop prior to the Phoenix Coyotes’ game against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday at 7 p.m. at Jobing.com Arena. Coyotes co-owner Anthony LeBlanc came up with the idea shortly after closing on the purchase of the team in August.

"We wanted to send our Olympians off in style but, frankly, also wanted to create an event that would be momentous for our fans," LeBlanc said. "Although I’m a Canadian, I have always been fascinated by the Miracle on Ice team, and this was amplified due to the movie ‘Miracle,’ which is probably my favorite film.

"We think it will be a very special night for everyone in attendance and will get everyone ready for an exciting 2014 Olympics."

Most everyone has seen Mike Eruzione’s game-winning goal against the Soviets. But some of the other details of that tournament are fuzzy. Not many remember that if the U.S. hadn’t beaten Finland in the next and final game of the Olympics, they wouldn’€™t have earned a medal, let alone the gold.

Most don’t remember that Rob McClanahan scored the game-winning goal against the Finns in yet another game in which the U.S. trailed early. And most don’t remember that McClanahan had a very public blow-up with now-deceased coach Herb Brooks.

During the opening game of the 1980 Olympic tournament against Sweden, McClanahan sustained an upper-thigh bruise that left the U.S. short another player because defenseman Jack O’Callahan had been injured during an exhibition game against the Soviet Union three days prior to the Olympics. McClanahan finished the game, but the details of that decision weren’t all included in the movie "Miracle."

"I got hurt the first shift of the game trying to avoid a check. I jumped up and my thigh hit the top of the boards. It was a serious contusion," said McClanahan, who will be in Glendale along with Eruzione and Broten. "I had an ice pack on it, and I was flat on my back with my leg bent as much as it could be bent. All the guys came in and checked on me, but Herb came in and questioned me.

"I don’t know if ‘candy ass’ is the word he used, but he questioned my toughness, and I kind of snapped. I was shocked and I went after him.

"What they didn’t depict in the movie was that I was a second away from throwing a punch at him when he walked out into the hallway. I followed him and we were screaming there as well. Sweden’s locker room was right next to us, and I’m yelling at him, telling him, ‘You’re not going to tell me if I’m healthy enough to play!’

Miracle memories

The Swedes must have been thinking, ‘After one period of the first game, these guys are already losing their marbles.’"

McClanahan finished that game, although he admits he was "worthless." He missed the opening ceremonies because he was in a whirlpool trying to heal the bruise, which he said never reached 100 percent. Despite the injury, he had five goals in seven tournament games, including two game-winning goals (against West Germany and Finland).

The complexion of the Olympics has changed considerably since that iconic event. In place of amateurs, the U.S., Canada and other nations now send their professional athletes to compete in the games.

"It’s a tough call because it’s about seeing the best athletes in their respective sports, and this year is hands-down the best hockey you’ll see with the skill and the speed," McClanahan said. "But it’s hard to field a team when you put it together for two weeks and call it a team. The Olympics are about training together an entire season."

Broten echoed the latter thoughts.

"I’m a traditionalist. I kind of wish it was back the way it was when we played," Broten said. "Pros deserve the chance to play and represent their country, and some didn’t get a chance before because they had signed with a team. But for guys who weren’t already making money, it was the thrill of a lifetime, and you can’t build the kind of friendships and camaraderie and bond we had when you’re only together for a few weeks."

Broten still stays in touch with most of his Team USA teammates, and he insists the friendships haven’t wavered. But he doesn’t see them nearly as often as he’d like.

"I wish I could go back and relive it one more time — be 20 years old again and stand in that locker room one more time with those guys, or play Space Invaders with Dave Christian," he said. "I didn’t realize what I was doing at the time. I didn’t realize how big it was. We were just a bunch of kids who loved to play hockey."


Watch the video: MIRACLE - The Greatest American Sports Moment of All Time


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