Thursday, July 01, 2010

The Miracle on Ice (1980)

This is part 9 in the From Hank to Hideki series, chronicling the 40 most memorable sports moments of my lifetime.

Previous: Good Night, Captain (1979)

I had zero interest in hockey prior to the 1980 Winter Olympics. In fact, I really don't remember exactly what about that version of Team USA drew me in, or exactly when it happened. But, I do know that it was prior to the game that is the namesake of the title of this post.

Team USA lost 10-3 in an exhibition game to the Soviet Union just prior to the games. They were seeded 7th heading into the tournament, and their first two matchups were against the teams given the best chance to upend the Soviets, 3rd-seeded Sweden and 2nd-seeded Czechoslovakia.

I think it was that first game, a 2-2 tie versus Sweden—a contest that I didn't watch—that piqued my interest, but it was game two—an impressive 7-3 victory over Czechoslovakia—that reeled me in. From that point on, there seemed something magical about that team, as they reeled off three straight wins—over Norway, Romania, and West Germany—to finish pool play 4-0-1.

Team USA's reward for their strong showing in the opening round was a medal-round matchup with the feared Soviet squad. As well as they played versus their cold war rivals, it still always felt like they were in over their heads, and it was only a matter of time until the U.S.S.R. put them away. It felt that way until they took their first lead of the game, 4-3 with ten minutes remaining. If you don't know what happened next, I don't know what to say, but I'll bet Al Michaels does:

"The Miracle on Ice" moniker is commonly used to refer to this tremendous upset victory over the Soviet Union, the game which gave them the opportunity to secure the gold with one more victory. But, to me it represents the team's performance during that entire Olympic tournament, which was capped off by a three-goal final period in a 4-2 victory over Finland.

I'm not an intensely patriotic person, although I probably was much more so when I witnessed these 1980 Winter Olympics at the age of 12. But, to me, these games also represent the birth of the goose-bump-inducing "USA! USA! USA!" chant.

While Al Michaels' famous "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" call lives on forever, just as memorable to me is his call during the final seconds of the Americans' gold medal victory over Finland:

Five seconds to the gold medal, four to the gold medal...This impossible dream...comes true!

Next: The Louie and Bouie Show (1980)

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