Jul 1, 2009

Most Memorable Sports Moment #4

Team USA Beast Russia

Do you believe in miracles? Yes. Now I know that there is a theological understanding of miracles that would never apply to a hockey game. However, given the scope of the United States upset over Russia in 1980, that is the closest thing outside of an act of God that can be considered a miracle. Most people would consider this to be one of the top sports moments on any list.

At the time of this event, I was 12 and didn't fully understand the global hockey situation. As a teenage boy from New Hope Mississippi, we didn't see much hockey in those pre-ESPN days. As a matter of fact, I didn't watch it on TV and really didn't think it was a huge moment the first time I saw the highlights. It wasn't until I heard the background story and later saw the movie Miracle that I really began to understand what this group of college kids was up against in the professional Russian hockey team. The Russian hockey team had won all but one Olympic ice hockey gold medals since 1956. The year before the Olympics, the Russians defeated an NHL All-Star team 6-0. In addition, the decades of the Cold War tension between the US and Russia and the potential of the later on US boycott of the Summer Games in Moscow added a lot of fuel to an already brewing fire. The US Olympic coach, Herb Brooks, had played on the 1964 and 1968 US hockey teams and almost made the 1960 team, the only one who had won the gold medal. Brooks had a consuming passion to beat the Russians which translated into a fiery determination that pushed his young college guys harder than they had ever worked.

The week before the Olympics, the Russians defeated the US kids 10-3 in an exhibition game. No one gave the US a chance, except them. The US fought back from a 2-1 deficit to tie it at the end of the first period. The Russian coach pulled Vladislav Tretiak, the best goaltender in the world, at the start of the 2nd period. The Soviets scored again to take a 3-2 lead. The US tied it again at 8:39 into the third period and team captain Mike Eruzione fired the lead goal with 10 minutes left to play. The US goaltender, Jim Craig, made a series of incredible saves to keep the US lead and secure the victory. The most incredible upset, potentially in the history of sports, had just taken place. Few remember that this was actually not the gold medal game, but got the US in the medal round game against Finland later on to secure the gold medal. However, the real scoop was the incredible upset that will forever live on in sports lore.

Now excuse me. I have to go put "Miracle" in the DVD player.