It remains one of the most memorable events in American sports history.
The United States Olympic hockey team’s stirring victory over the Soviet Union juggernaut in 1980 stands as one of the biggest upsets in sports history. And for those who remember it and the political consequences of the time, it was a lump-in-the-throat moment that unified the entire nation when it most needed it.
The U.S. Olympic hockey team hadn’t won a gold medal in decades. And the Soviet Union powerhouse hadn’t lost a game since 1968 and had won four straight gold medals.
But on Feb. 22, 1980, 39 years ago today, all that changed. America was reeling with 52 American diplomats and citizens being held hostage in Iran. The country clearly needed a shot of good news.
The underdog American hockey team did that and more, pulling off a major upset at the Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y. The plucky Americans beat the Soviets in their next-to-last game of the Olympics with a stirring 4-3 triumph.
The same Soviet team had drubbed the American team, 10-3, several weeks earlier. It had embarrassed a team of NHL All-Stars with a 6-0 triumph a year previously.
Broadcaster Al Michaels’ jubilant reaction at the end of the game became one of the most iconic moments in sports television: “Five seconds left in the game; do you believe in miracles? Yes!”
That U.S. team was the youngest American hockey squad in history to that point. Beating the Russians could have been the culmination of the biggest events for all members of that team.
But they rebounded after the stunning victory to beat Finland two days later to claim the nation’s first hockey gold medal in 20 years.
Sports Illustrated named the 1980 victory over the Russians as its greatest moment in sports history. Those who watched the game still remember exactly where they were 39 years ago tonight.
What are some of your memories of this very special moment in sports and American history?