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USA and Russia has a colorful hockey history. Yes, their rivalry is not just in “D2: The Mighty Ducks”. The rivalry is real, and it’s pretty intense. It also has a pretty cool name – The Miracle on Ice.
You can watch the best moments of the USA vs Russia 1980 hockey game right here! Be careful, it’s intense! 🙂 The Americans won with the score 4:3.
I am a pretty big hockey fan, and for me is very interesting to learn more history about the 1980 USA vs Russia (USSR) game at the 1980 Olympics, that was held in Lake Placid.
Let’s take a closer look and see why that game on February 22, 1980 is so famous and memorable even these days – 35 years after…
Even before facing each other on center ice, the two teams couldn’t help themselves. They were natural rivals.
After all, the two nations battled each other for decades during the Cold War. There were also conflicts that were happening during that time.
In December of 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan which the US disapproved of. President Jimmy Carter wanted to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics that was about to be held in Moscow because of this invasion.
Cyrus Vance, the Secretary of State of the US at that time, denounced the upcoming Summer Olympics in Moscow at a meeting held by the International Olympic Committee. This meeting happened on February, 9, which was the same day that Team USA and the Soviet Union national hockey team was scheduled to meet for an exhibition match.
What is “The Miracle on Ice”?
This is the name given to a medal round match between Team USA and the Soviet Union (Russian) national hockey team. The game happened during the Winter Olympics in February 22, 1980 that took place in Lake Placid in New York. It was a very big deal!
Team USA was represented by a hodgepodge of collegiate and amateur players. Since they were amateurs especially when compared to the national team of the Soviet Union, no one gave the Team USA led by coach Herb Brooks a chance. This is especially true since the Soviet Union won the gold medal in 6 out of the 7 previous Winter Olympics.
Team USA rode its momentum after winning the match against the Soviet Union to win the gold medal against Finland. The Soviet Union didn’t do too badly, as it also won its last match against Sweden as it settled for silver.
1980 Miracle on Ice is considered as one of the top sports moments. In fact, Sports Illustrated named it as the Top Sports Moment of the 20th century. When the International Ice Hockey Federation celebrated its 100th year last 2008, it named the game as the top international story in ice hockey of the century!
“Russians” as the Title Favorite
They weren’t just the title favorite; they were the heavy favorite to win the gold. After all, it has won 6 out of the 7 ice hockey gold in the previous Winter Olympics, including the previous 4.
After being on the losing end of an upset in a match against the US in 1960, the Soviet Union team went on to go on a rampage with a record of 27 wins, 1 loss and 1 tie by outscoring opposing teams with a cumulative score of 175 to 44. In the same period in its matches against the US, the former has outscored the latter with a cumulative score of 28 to 7.
The Soviet Union had an intimidating team. Their lineup was filled with legends of the world’s ice hockey.
There’s Boris Mikhailov who served as the team captain and was a top-notch right wing player and the speed demon known as Valeri Kharlamov. There was also Viacheslav Fetisov who was a lock-down defender and top forwards Sergei Makarov and Vladimir Krutov.
Of course, let’s not forget the best goaltender in the world at that time – Vladislav Tretiak.
These hockey players were veterans in the international arena. They trained in world-class facilities and played in one of the best hockey leagues at that time. Some of them were active in the military. Three of them are now part of the Hockey Hall of Fame. It’s easy to see why they’re the heavy title favorite.
Add that to the fact that they played exhibition games against NHL teams early that year, accumulating a record of 5 wins, 3 losses and 1 tie. They also played a collection of NHL stars in the Challenge Cup and they decimated that team to the tune of 6 goals to none.
For its part, Team USA was a mixture of amateur players and collegiate players. During that time, the best players in North America played for Canada. While it’s true that they were considered as promising players, they’re considered inferior to their Soviet counterparts.
USA hockey team surprised the field with its physical and steady play. They played tough and won against tough competition. For its part, the Soviet Union team rested its best players in some of its matches. Even so, they were still the heavy favorite. Even Dave Anderson, who was the columnist of the New York Times, implied that a miracle is needed to win against the Russians.
The Role that Herb Brooks Played
Herb Brooks, coach of the USA national team, is widely-credited for that miracle of a win. He made the team play a series of exhibition games – 61 games all in all – in a span of 5 months. The team played against European and American teams.
Herb Brooks established a system with one goal in mind – beat the Soviet team and he did it! He instilled a European system that focused on wide open play and encouraging contact.
It didn’t look like it was working because in their last exhibition game against the Soviet’s, Team USA was crushed on home soil at the Madison Square Garden on the February, 9 of 1980 with a score of 10 to 3 in favor of the Russians.
In this match, the US lost not just the game, but also Jack O’Callahan who’s an important part of their defense because of a pulled knee ligament. He did return in time to play in the “Miracle on Ice” game, although he was only able to play for a few minutes.
According to the coach of the Soviet Union team, Viktor Tikhonov, their win against Team USA in this exhibition match proved to be a negative for them. According to them, “the team became too complacent and underestimated the Americans”.
Whatever the case may be, it really was “The Miracle on Ice”. No doubt, the games between the Russian and the US national hockey teams will always bring a lot of attention. Now, after learning about the history of the 1980 USA vs Russia Miracle on Ice game, you know why.