February 22, 1980 – The “Miracle on Ice” was a medal-round game during the men’s ice hockey tournament at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, played between the hosting United States and the four-time defending gold medalists, the Soviet Union.
It was more than just an Olympic upset; to many Americans, it was an ideological victory in the Cold War as meaningful as the Berlin Airlift or the Apollo moon landing. After the degrading and humiliating events of the flaccid Carter administration (Iran Hostage Crisis), this win lifted an entire nation.
Watch the greatest moment in American sports, and arguably the greatest call by Al Michaels, a call which launched him into stardom. “Do you believe in Miracles? YES!!!”:
The Soviet Union had won the gold medal in five of the six previous Winter Olympic Games, and they were the favorites to win once more in Lake Placid. The team consisted primarily of professional players with significant experience in international play. By contrast, the United States’ team—led by head coach Herb Brooks— comprised mostly amateur players. With only four players with minimal minor-league experience, the United States was the youngest team in the tournament and in U.S. national team history. In the group stage, both the Soviet and U.S. teams were unbeaten; the U.S. achieved several notable results, including a 2–2 draw against Sweden and a 7–3 upset victory over second-place favorite Czechoslovakia.