“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”
Al Michaels’ iconic broadcast call for ABC during the final seconds of the U.S. hockey team’s stunning 4-3 victory against the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics summed up one of the most dramatic upsets in Olympic history.
The underdog U.S. squad, a squad of college players coached by Herb Brooks, defeated the Soviets, who were the four-time defending Olympic champions, in front of a frenzied crowd Feb. 22, 1980, in Lake Placid, New York.
Three days before the Olympics, the Soviets defeated the Americans 10-3 in an exhibition game, so expectations in Lake Placid were low.
Now, the U.S. squad faced the Soviets again in the tiny town of Lake Placid.
“Lake Placid had only about 3,000 residents, and one main street that was always crowded,” Gerald Eskenazi wrote in The New York Times. “It had a Chinese restaurant named Chopstix.”
However, Lake Placid became the epicenter of the sports world Feb. 22, 1980.
The U.S. squad stayed close, thanks to the saves of goalie Jim Craig. With 11:30 left in the third period, Mark Johnson tied the game at 3-3 with a goal.
About 90 seconds later, Mike Eruzione took a pass from Mark Pavelich and connected on a 25-foot wrist shot that got past Soviet goalie Vladimir Myshkin.
The Americans led, but there were 10 minutes to play. However, the U.S. prevailed, setting up Michaels’ memorable call. Craig skated on the ice, covering himself in the American flag.
“The line was completely spontaneous and totally in the moment,” Michaels wrote in his 2014 book, “You Can’t Make This Up.” "This was a unique situation when, as a broadcaster, you could be openly biased: 99.9% of the audience is 100% with you.
“I know there’s supposed to be ‘no rooting in the press box,’ but this was the exception.”
Lost in the euphoria was that the Americans still had one more game to play. However, the U.S. squad took the gold two days later, defeating Finland 4-2.
The victory came at the height of the Cold War, so any win against the Soviets was seen as precious. A 2004 movie, “Miracle,” introduced a new generation of Americans to the emotional victory.
“It’s always USA vs Russia,” defenseman Jack O’Callahan told CNN. “We also knew we were Americans and they weren’t ... we beat them.”
Forty years later, members of that 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team reunited in Las Vegas for a weekend celebration.
On Sunday, ESPN and ABC will commemorate the 40th anniversary. ESPN will air a one-hour special, “SportsCenter Special: Miracle on Ice at 40,” ESPN reported.
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