Published on December 21st, 20120
Do You Believe in Miracles? How a Team of College Kids Defeated the Soviet Union
In America it was more than hockey, it was “us against them”, it was “freedom versus communism”. The place was Lake Placid; the event was the 1980 Winter Olympics. On Friday, February 22 the United States beat the Soviet Union 4–3.
Back then NHL players could not participate in the Olympics, which meant that the United States consisted solely of College players. The Soviets, on the other hand, had the best hockey team in the world, including players like Fetisov, Krutov, and Makarov.
With two seconds left of the game, sportscaster Al Michaels said the famous words “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” This was truly a miracle; team USA beat the Soviet Union and went on to take the gold medal that year.
The United States did not immediately win the gold medal upon defeating the USSR. In 1980 the medal round was a round-robin, not a single elimination format as it is today.
According to one of the players, the coach before the final game against Finland, made his demands clear to the players; “If you lose this game, you’ll take it to your graves.” He then paused, took a few steps, turned again, said, “Your bloody graves,” and walked out.
In the cold war era the match against the USSR was more than a hockey match. Sports in general was closely entangled with the super power rivalry. Following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the US. boycotted the olympic games in Moscow in 1980, a move reciprocated by the USSR and its allies in Los Angeles four years later.
The Miracle on Ice was an inspiration for the Americans in the cold war context. The battle was not over, but the Soviet Bear was no longer invincible. This victory later became a pronounced aspect of the American national aspiration to prevail during the cold war, and was also later made into a Hollywood movie.