“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”
The living members of the miracle team gathered at Lake Placid this weekend to relive the magical moment. Over 5,000 fans gathered at the rink, now named Herb Brooks Arena, to celebrate the men.
“It feels exactly the same,” said team member Dave Christian. “You could feel the electricity in the (locker) room. It’s still there.”
In 1980, with the United States and the USSR immersed in the Cold War, America defeated the mighty Russian hockey team 4-3 in the greatest upset in sports history at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.
The Red Army hockey team had won the gold medal in six of the last seven Olympics before 1980. The team consisted of professionals who trained in the belief that anything less than gold was worthless. They had experience in international play and practiced in some of the best facilities in Russia.
Herb Brooks assembled a team of amateurs and college players with an average age of 21. Players from the University of Minnesota and Boston University made the team, which caused tension on the team between the collegiate rivals.
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On this date 35 years ago, Team USA beat the Soviets in the fabled "Miracle on Ice" game. pic.twitter.com/Cbbhn7KYI7
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35 years ago, U.S. Goalie Jim Craig leaped high in the air during the final seconds of the 'Miracle on Ice' game pic.twitter.com/Ndwtsx3APu
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The game only sealed Team USA’s place in the gold medal game against Finland. The men won the gold, but the victory against Russia shows it was not just about medals. It lifted up America, gave Americans hope the mighty West could bring down communism and rise up from ’70s defeatism. Sports Illustrated published a picture of the team’s celebration on its front cover. It is the only time the major publication did not print any wording on the cover.
The players knew the political situation, but just wanted to win the game.
“In sports in general, everyone roots for the underdog, which we certainly were an underdog,” said Christian. “We were aware of the political situation in the world, but in a lot of respects for us it truly was a game, a great challenge.”
Brooks passed away in a car accident in 2003. His players remembered him fondly.
“Herb had a feel for the game during the game,” claimed goalie Jim Craig. “He would get you off the ice before you could commit a penalty. He was ahead of his time in many ways.”
Brooks’ pregame speech is still a source of inspiration and performed perfectly onscreen by Kurt Russell in the movie Miracle.
Defenseman Bob Suter passed away in September. The team raised his jersey in his honor.
“Bobby was a great player and a great person,” said teammate Mike Eruzione. “He did a lot for hockey. We all realize that at some point we’re going to move on, but nobody thought that Bobby would not be with us. He was a special teammate, a special person.”
— Nick Zaccardi (@nzaccardi) February 22, 2015