In what was one of the biggest upsets in sports history, the Miracle on Ice was nothing short of remarkable.
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With the American ice hockey team hardly fancied ahead of the 1980 Olympics at Lake Placid, the team that consisted of amateur college players amazingly overcame the favourites in the Soviet Union 4-3 in the medal round, before going on to beat Finland to claim a memorable gold medal.
Considering the USSR had defeated the US team 10-3 in an exhibition game in New York just 13 days earlier, this made the achievement even more impressive. Moreover, the fact the USSR had also beaten an NHL All Star team in the lead up to the tournament and was a team who’d played together for the best part of a decade only amplified what a shock it was.
Courtesy of Sportskeeda
Coached by Herb Brooks, the USA boss selected his team predominantly from NCAA teams the Minnesota Gophers (the team Brooks coached) and Boston University. With players from Bowling Green, Wisconsin and Minnesota-Duluth rounding out the squad, he wanted a tough to handle team to deal with the seasoned Russians.
Priced at an outrageous 1000-1 to overcome their seasoned adversaries to win Gold at the time according to simulations that have since been done, upon looking back and knowing the Soviets had won 12 of the previous 16 World Championships and triumphed in the last four Olympics, it’s easy to understand those odds.
Despite being dominated by the Soviets for large periods, team USA took their chances and defended resolutely to progress to the gold medal clash. When referring back to Brooks’ inspirational pregame speech, it’s clear his words resonated with his players. “If we played them 10 times, they might win nine,” stated Brooks.
“But not this game. Not tonight. Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players. You were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Now, go out there and take it.”
And take it they did, as this US side incredibly etched their name into the history books against all odds with their grit, determination and collective spirit.