An ice hockey match between the Soviet Union and USA became of the greatest sporting victories seen in a hundred years. Although USA now has a formidable hockey team, at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid they were not expected to do well. Somehow they pulled off a miracle and beat heavy favorites for the gold medal, the Soviet Union.
Men vs. boys
USA were not expected to triumph in Lake Placid, they had hastily compiled their team with a bunch of amateurs. Playing with amateurs was a requirement for the Olympics, but the Soviets found a loophole and filled their squad with professional athletes. Team USA were using college stars while the Soviets had fully fledged professionals posing as engineers, soldiers, and students. The Soviets won the last four Olympic golds in ice hockey and were heavily fancied to be decorated with gold again.
The game was contested with the Cold War playing out in the background, adding to the tension surrounding the game. For the players, all thoughts of politics went away, and they just focused on playing the game, even if the Soviets were expected to win. The only war each team would need to concentrate on was the one on the ice in Lake Placid.
The game itself was actually pretty close, which added to the drama. Both teams were playing for a place in the final round, and the opportunity to win gold, so the pressure was on. The Soviets were 2-1 up as the end of the first period was drawing closer, but USA managed to get a late score. The Soviet coach was so enraged with his goaltender that he withdrew him from the rest of the match, something he admits cost his team confidence.
Despite the odds, USA were holding their own against much stronger opposition, and by the end of the second, the score was a respectable 3-2 to the Soviets. With everything to play for in the final period, the American amateurs gave it one last push against their professional counterparts. The Soviets were putting USA’s goal under serious pressure, but on the breakaway USA managed to score 2 and it was now 4-3 with 10 minutes left.
Goaltender Jim Craig had an incredibly busy period, and the final game statistics showed he saved 36 of the Soviets’ 39. USA managed to hold on for a famous victory against the Olympic champions.
As the final horn blew, the arena erupted into jubilant cheers, players were jumping the fences to celebrate with fans. Sports announcer Al Michaels was calling the iconic game, and his quote has stayed with the match for almost 40 years. He asked the viewing millions, “Do you believe in miracles?! Yes!” and with that, the game had a name.
Following the Miracle on Ice, USA went on to win gold in the final round, defeating Finland 4-2. 13 of the 20 players on Team USA became pros following their impressive showing at the Olympics.