Sunday, March 15, 2009


The Miracle on Ice is considered by most Americans to be the greatest sports event in the United States. On February 22, 1980, the United States Olympic Hockey team defeated the much stronger and much more experienced Soviet Union Olympic team 4-3 before winning the Gold Medal, which was unbelievable to many Americans because this team was considered a long shot even to win a medal. The Miracle on Ice will be remembered by all Americans as the time when all of America was able to believe in the greatness and determination of themselves and their country.

The 1970's

The 1970's was a very turbulent and rough time for the United States. The decade started with the Vietnam War going badly for the United States, and the country was divided because of support for the war, which would finally come to an end in 1973. One year later, President Richard Nixon resigned due to his involvement in the Watergate Scandal, and he was the first president to resign. To make matters worse, the price of gas had risen drastically and tensions with the Soviet Union were at an all time high. President Jimmy Carter said in 1979, "This is a crisis of confidence for America" (Carter). By the end of the decade, most Americans had little confidence in their country and their leaders. Americans believed that they needed a sprark to boost their confidence for the years to come.

Herb Brooks-The Leader

The Coach of the 1980 Olympic Hockey Team was Herb Brooks from St. Paul, Minnesota. Brooks had actually qualified for the 1960 Olympic Team, which was the only other American team to win the Olympic Gold Medal, but he was the last player to be cut from that team. At the time of the games, he was the head coach of the Minnesota University Hockey team, and he had won three national championships in the 1970's. At first, the Olympic committee that selected him was skeptical of his abilities, because he wanted to change the way the American team played the game. He wanted the American players to train harder and play much more competitive, as the Soviets and Canadians did at the time. However, Brooks got the job and began his training, which was very controversial because his methods were very harsh and intense, such as the infamous Blue Line Drill (called the "again drill by his players because they had to repeat it so many times). The team practiced together for only six months before the games, but because of Brooks' training, the team was ready. Herb Brooks once said, "Great moments come with great opportunity" (Brooks) before the game agianst the Soviet Union. After the Games, Herb Brooks became an American celebrity and began to coach in the NHL. Brooks was the head coach of the United States again in the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City, where the Americans won the Silver Medal. He was a consultant for the film Miracle, which was released in 2004, in which he was played by Kurt Russel. He was killed in a car accident in 2003 during production of the film, which was dedicated in his honor. The Arena in Lake Placid, where the team won the Gold Medal, was renamed Herb Brooks Arena in 2005.

The Competition

The competition for the 1980 Olympic Hockey tournament was extremely talented. The Soviet Union was obviously the best team in the world at the time. They had won almost every international competiton they entered, and they had won every Olympic Gold Medal in the event since 1964. The Soviets also anhilated the NHL all stars in a competition the year before the games. “They know they are going to win, and so do their opponents” (Brooks) said Herb Brooks as the team watched film of the Soviet team. Opposed to the United States, where the players only trained together for six months before the games, the Soviet players played with each other all year round, and the current Soviet players had been playing with each other for at least ten years! Besides the Soviets, the eastern bloc teams from Czechoslovakia and Romania, as well as Sweeden, dominated international hockey at the time.

The Team

The 1980 United States Winter Olympic Hockey team is one of the most unique teams in American sports. "This team is not about old rivalries" (Brooks) said Herb Brooks at one of the first practices. This team was made up of 20 players, all with an average age of only 22! Each player had played college hockey before the games, because professional athletes could not compete in the Olympics at the time. The team was considered a long shot to even win a medal by experts, but proved everyone wrong when they defeated the Soviet Union and won the Gold Medal. The team consisted of captain Mike Eurozione, Mark Johnson, Jack O'Callahan, Rob McClanahan and goalie Jim Craig, who played every minute of every game in the tourament. After the games, many of these players played in the NHL, but none of them became big stars in the league. The team reunited in the 2oo2 Olympics to light the cauldron in the opening cerimonies.

The Olympic Games

The 1980 Winter Olympic Games began on February 12 in Lake Placid, New York. Three days before the Games, the United States played the Soviet Union at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The Soviet Union won this game 10-3, and after this, many people believed that the United States was not going to stand a chance at all during the actual games. However, in their first game, the United States tied heavily favored Sweeden, 2-2, by tying the game with only thirty seconds to go in the game. A few days later, the Americans defeated Czechoslovakia, who was considered to be the second best team in the world 7-3, and after this game, fans of the United States began to believe that this team may have a chance to win a medal. The college-age Americans then went on to defeat Romania, Norway and West Germany (coming from behind in each game) to advance to the semi-finals against the Soviet Union. The much older Russian players had an easier time in the tournament at that point, winning every game, and even routing Japan 16-0! This would set up the memorable game between the United States and the Soviet Union.

The Game-"The Miracle on Ice"

The much anticipated semi-final between the United States and the Soviet Union occured in the evening of February 22, 1980. The game had sold out with thousands of American fans who chanted "U-S-A!" throughout the game, and this is where that famous chant originated. Before the game, Herb Brooks said in a speech to his players, "You were meant to be hockey players, this is your time!" (Brooks). The Soviets scored first in this game, scoring only a few minutes into the first period, but the Americans were quick to score, with Buzz Schneider scoring their first goal. After the Soviets scored again, Mark Johnson scored at the buzzer of the first period for a 2-2 tie, and this goal prompted the Soviet coach to replace his goalie, Vladislov Tretiak (considered to be the best goalie in the world) with his backup, Vladimir Myshkin. The Soviet Union scored once in the second period, and going into the third and final period, the Soviets led by one goal. The United States scored twice in the first ten minutes of the period with goals from Mark Johnson and Mike Eurozione to take a 4-3 lead. There were still ten minutes in the game, and goalie Jim Craig made numerous saves from Soviet shots during this time, and the United States won this game 4-3. With only five seconds remaining, American broadcaster Al Micheals made the famous quote, "Do you believe in Miracles...Yes!" (Michaels). The United States went on to win the Gold Medal two days later by defeating Finland 4-2.

The Aftermath of the "Miracle"

The events of the "Miracle on Ice" in the 1980 Winter Olympics were known by most Americans to be events larger than just a hockey tournament. After the 1970's, many Americans believed that there was a need for a boost in American confidence, and most of these Americans consider this to be that boost. The "Miracle" was considered to be the highlight of the Olympic Games and of the entire year, as the team was named the Sportsmen of the Year by Sports Illustrated. Images of this event were seen (and are still seen) in many aspects of American culture. In 1999, the win against the Soviet Union was considered to be the greatest sports event of the century by Sports Illustrated, ESPN, the IIHF (International Ice Hockey Federation) and many other aspects of sports media. The 2002 Winter Olympics-the first Winter Olympics in the United States since 1980-put large focus on the "Miracle on Ice" as the team reunited to light the Olympic cauldron and Herb Brooks returned to coach the United States, who won the Silver Medal that year. The "Miracle on Ice" continues to be the sports event that defines the United States.


Since the "Miracle on Ice", there have been three adaptations of the event onto TV or Film. The first was Miracle on Ice a made-for-TV film released in 1981 starring Karl Malden as Herb Brooks and this film contained actual footage from the Games one year before. The second was Do you Believe in Miracles, a documentary made in 2001 that contained interviews with the players and coaches as well as footage from practices and the tournament. However, the most popular of the adaptations was the 2004 film Miracle, which starred Kurt Russel as Herb Brooks and Patrica Clarkson as his wife, Patty Brooks. The real Herb Brooks was a major consultant for the film. For the hockey team, real hockey players were used for their resemblence to the actual players. This film is film is known for its accuracy with the actual events, and even all of the goals scored were replicated from the actual goals of the tournament. “This is not just a sports movie, but a movie that defines America” (Emmerich) said Noah Emmerich, who played assistant coach Craig Patrick in the movie. The movie was released on February 6, 2004, and was recieved positively by critics.

An American Obsession

The "Miracle on Ice" is purely an American event and obsession. When Herb Brooks was asked about the popularity of the "Miracle" ever deteriorating, he said "I don't think it will, it will never stop." (Brooks). Many Americans know the story of the "Miracle on Ice" and it is thought to be the sports event that defines the American determination and courage. The "Miracle on Ice" will be remembered as a purely American event and an American obsession for many years to come.

Works Cited

1. Allen, Kevin. "College Kids Perform Olympic Miracle." 23 Dec 2008. 15 Mar 2009

2. "Herb Brooks Quotes." 15 Mar 2009

3. Sandler , Michael. Hockey: Miracle on Ice. New York City: Bearport Publishing Company, 2006.

4. Mizell, Hubert. "Miracle on Ice unmatched in capturing American spirit." St. Petersburg Times (2002):

5. "USA vs USSR Hockey." ABC Winter Olympics. ABC Wide World of Sports. ABC, New York City. 22 Feb 1980.

6. Miracle . Dir. Gavin McConnor. DVD. Disney, 2004.

7. Lewis, John. "Memory Lane-Miracle on Ice." [Weblog myBCTnow] 15 Mar 2009 .