Host City: Lake Placid, United States
Venue(s): Olympic Arena, Lake Placid; Olympic Field House International Ice Rink, Lake Placid
Date Started: February 12, 1980
Date Finished: February 24, 1980
Format: Round-robin pools, followed by round-robin medal round.
Now that it was established that the Soviet Union ice hockey team was the equivalent of an NHL all-star team, they were favored in every amateur tournament in which they played. The American team was given no chance before the Olympics and, in fact, lost to the Soviets 10-3, in an exhibition one week before the Olympics began. The team was coached by fanatical Herb Brooks, who had been the last player cut from the 1960 Olympic ice hockey team. As in 1960, most of the U.S. players were from Minnesota and Boston, but this time they were mostly college players. Brooks introduced them to a more wide-open passing game, imitating the international style, and put them through a punishing training program, guaranteeing them they would never be out-skated in the third period.
In the opening game the United States faced a strong Swedish team and trailed 2-1, with less than a minute in the game. Brooks pulled his goalie as Bill Baker scored to tie the game, 2-2. Next, the Americans met a strong Czechoslovakian team. Tied 2-2 after the first period, the USA out-skated the Czechs, and won 7-3. Late in that game, a Czech player violently checked American star Mark Johnson, and faced the wrath of Brooks, who threatened to jam his hockey stick down his throat. The US won three more games to advance to the medal round.
The USA and the USSR met in a final round game. Before the game, Brooks told his team in the locker room, “You were born to be players. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours.” And they were as the Americans won a stunning upset, 4-3, with Mike Eruzione scoring the winning goal with 11 minutes left to play. American goalie Jim Craig faced numerous Soviet rushes in the closing minutes, but stopped them all. As Brooks had promised, they were the ones with wings on their blades in the third period, outskating the Soviets, who suddenly appeared old and tired. With seconds remaining, as he counted down the clock, ABC television announcer, Al Michaels, asked the words all Americans were thinking, “Do you believe in miracles?” It was considered such an upset victory that the next day the Boston Herald headlined it on the front page of the newspaper, not the sports page, in 144 pt. type, with the simple words, “WE WON!”
At the medal ceremony, only the captains mounted the podium for ice hockey in that era. But captain Mike Eruzione called all his teammates up there and somehow 22 young American ice hockey players stood together on top of the podium – and the world.