Winter Olympics Memorable Moments: The 1980 U.S. Hockey Team
Cold war heroes
By now everyone knows the story of the rag-tag group of college players, skilled but young and inexperienced, that shocked the world by beating the Russians and going on to win the gold medal at the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid.
The miracle truly began when the Americans beat the overwhelmingly favored Soviets in the semifinals. The United States was the seventh seed in the 12-team tournament and had lost to the Soviet team, recognized as the best hockey team in the world, 10–3, in an exhibition match at Madison Square Garden just 13 days before.
Nevertheless, the Americans reached the medal round with a 4–0–1 record. Playing in front of a boisterous home crowd at the peak of the cold war, the United States fell behind early in the game. Mark Johnson scored a goal to tie the game, 2–2, just before the end of the first period.
Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov pulled his legendary goalie, Vladislav Tretiak, for the younger, less-experienced Vladimir Myshkin. It seemed to work, as the Soviets took a 3–2 lead into the third period. But Johnson scored again in the third to tie the game.
Team captain Mike Eruzione scored the game-winning goal with a wrist shot later in the third period, and goalie Jim Craig stood on his head, making 39 saves as the team held on to beat the unbeatable, 4–3. Just two days after the emotional victory the team scored three third-period goals to beat Finland, 4–2, for the gold.
The U.S. victory came 20 years after the 1960 U.S. team won the gold medal at Squaw Valley. The 1980 team included right wing Dave Christian, whose father, Billy, and uncle, Roger, were linemates on the 1960 team. Herb Brooks, coach of the “miracle” 1980 team, had been the final player cut in 1960.