The world of sports captures many people’s imaginations throughout a lifetime. People dream of hitting the walk off home run in game seven of the World Series to win it all, or to score the game winning goal in overtime in game seven to clinch the Stanley Cup, or to hit the game winning three point shot to win game seven of the NBA Finals.
Most of us have thought about this at one point in our lives, but only a select few get to experience it.
A group of this select few was the 1980 US Men’s Hockey team.
This team was put together just months before the 1980 Winter Olympics were going to be held in Lake Placid, New York.
Head Coach Herb Brooks molded this team into a cohesive unit that worked well together and bought into a counter attack type system. Instead of sitting back and trying to contain teams, the US decided that it would attack as much as possible.
From here, almost everyone knows the story.
The US lost to the Soviet Union in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden in New York just a couple of days before the Olympics began. It wasn’t just a loss, it was an embarrassment. The Americans lost 10-3 and expectations were very low for the young American squad.
The U.S. soared through group play posting a 4-0-1 record and advancing to the medal round where they would face the dreaded Soviet Union.
This was more than a hockey game. In a time when the Cold War was in full force, this was more of two countries who hated each other battling it out. This was two countries’ ways of life against one another. This wasn’t any ordinary hockey game.
The Soviets were the best team in the world. They had won gold medals in 1963-1975 and then again in 1978 and 1979. They were stacked with great players such as Boris Mikhailov, Vladislav Tretiak, and Vladimir Petrov. The team was virtually unbeatable, except for this night.
The United States went down 2-0 early, but stormed back to tie the game at two with a last second goal (literally with one second left on the clock) to end the first period.
In a shocking move, the Soviets pulled Tretiak (the best goalie in the world at the time) for seldom used back-up Vladimir Myshkin. Myshkin was solid in the second period and the Americans went into the dressing room down 3-2 at the end of two periods.
The U.S. tied the game around the nine minutes into the third and from there, everyone knows how the story goes. Mike Eruzione, the U.S. captain, scored the game winner and the entire team jumped off the bench to celebrate what turned out to be the biggest goal in American hockey history.
By now, Al Michaels’ final call of the game is probably the most famous call of an American sporting event. For those who don’t remember:
The U.S. defeated the Soviet Union 4-3 and ended up beating Finland 4-2 to win the gold medal. The win was voted the greatest sports moment of the twentieth century by Sports Illustrated.
This was a game that no one expected the Americans to win, yet they did. At the same time, they provided relief for a nation under large amounts of stress. This epitomized what it meant to be an American at the time.
This is by far the greatest sports accomplishment of all time.
It was a true team effort and that’s what helped to make it so great.
Now I need to go watch the movie since I wasn’t alive when this actually took place. Thanks a lot Mom and Dad!