The 1980 Olympic semifinal hockey match between the Soviet Union and the United States will always be remembered as one of the greatest games of all time. In fact, this game is till referred to as the “Miracle On Ice.”
Before this match, the Soviets had won the previous four Olympic gold medals for hockey and hadn't lost since 1964. And three days before the 1980 Winter Olympics, the Soviets dominated the Americans ten to three in a preliminary match in New York City. This loss was anticipated because of the age difference between the American team and the Soviets. Also, the American’s captain, Mike Eruzione, had never played with the team before. Most fans didn't even expect the American team to win the early Olympic games, but they were wrong. The American team passed to the second round undefeated, with four wins and one draw. But as expected, the Soviets came out the first round seeded first and undefeated.
On Friday night, February 22, 1980, the American amateurs and the Soviets' ultimate team faced off before a sold out crowd in Lake Placid, New York. In the game’s first period, the Soviets scored first: their new young star player, Valery Krotov, hit a slap shot over the American goalie, Jim Craig. But midway through the first period, American player Buzz Schider hit a high shot over the Soviet goalie, Vladislav Tretiak, to tie the game up. Then, the powerful Soviets' strategy led to another goal by Sergei Makarov, which gave the Soviets a two to one lead. With just a few seconds left in the first period, America's Ken Morrow was able to get the puck out of their territory and pass it to Wisconsin's own Mark Johnson for another goal. The score was even at two-two.
At the beginning of the second period, the angered Soviets came out with a new goalie, Vladimir Mishkin, and started to focus more on the attack. Only a few minutes of Soviet possession passed before their Alesandr Maltsev scored a goal. Even though the Soviets were winning, Craig had started to emerge as the MVP of the match with many incredible saves.
Nine minutes into the last period, Johnson took advantage of a penalty and scored another wild shot to tie the game, three-three. All of the sudden, just one-and-a-half minutes later, America’s Mike Eurizone—whose last name means “eruption” in Italian—picked up a loose puck in Soviet territory and slammed it over Mishkin to take the lead, four-three.
With 10 minutes still left in the game, the Americans held on as Craig continued to make incredible saves. In the match’s final five seconds, the Americans successfully moved the puck out of their territory. The crowd started to count down the final seconds and the final horn sounded. American players, coaches, and team officials rushed onto the ice to celebrate the big win. In the spirit of good sportsmanship, the shocked Soviets shook their opponents' hands.
The so-called “Miracle On Ice” was way more than just an Olympic upset. To many Americans, it was a remarkable victory during the Cold War, just as meaningful as the Berlin Airlift or the Apollo moon landing. After the game, President Jimmy Carter called the players to congratulate them. Millions of Americans spent that Friday night celebrating the win of “our boys” against the Russian pros.
And two days later, the American team demonstrated their prowess with a victory over Finland in the Olympic finals. Their success was all possible thanks to the American coach, Herb Brooks, who trained his team long and hard. In fact, some historians have said the 1980's U.S. hockey team was probably the best-conditioned American Olympic hockey team of all time.
These factors, combined with the outstanding play of Craig, Johnson, Eurizone, and others, resulted in the miracle at Lake Placid. This memorable victory was later turned into a 2004 film, Miracle.
To many, what happened during the 1980 Olympics semifinal hockey match will forever be an unforgettable moment.