“Miracle on Ice” Remembered

 

Can this be forty years ago? It’s hard to explain to younger people what an earth-shaking, tear-jerking win the 1980 gold medal in hockey was for us. This was no simple rivalry. This was David vs. Goliath. This was Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader. This was Hobbits vs. Mordor. And the good guys won.

To provide some necessary background for the younger readers: Western countries such as the United States and Canada were constrained by the Olympic rules, which had long mandated that athletes must be amateurs. Our teams were composed of college players who had not yet begun their professional careers. The Soviets, as usual, simply cheated. They took their very top adult players, world-class, full-time athletes with years of international experience, and gave them phony job-assignments with the military or government so that they could be called amateurs. It was like putting the all-stars of the NFL against a college squad. It was a joke. Of course, they always won the gold medal, and they always would win the gold medal; it was a fact of life that would never change, kind of like the Iron Curtain and the Berlin Wall. Nothing to be done, we were just supposed to suck it up. Then this team of scrappy college kids did the unthinkable. They brought down Goliath. And less than ten years later, the citizens of both sides of Berlin brought down that “fact-of-life” wall with simple tools and bare, bloody hands and tear-stained faces. It reminds me of one of my favorite lines from Lord of the Rings: “Where tears are the very wine of blessedness.” This hockey game, this “miracle on ice” was the prelude to that miracle in Berlin.

Do you believe in miracles? Why yes. Yes, I do.

 

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  1. She Reagan
    She
    @She

    Karen Humiston: Do you believe in miracles? Why yes. Yes, I do.

    I do, too.  In fact, I’ve seen what I believe to have been more than one in my life.

    As far as this particular one was concerned, I remember it very clearly.  It was a different time, a different world, and a moment quite like no other in sports before, or perhaps since.

    We’ve lost something since then, I think, and not only in the sports world where NHL players now take lengthy hiatuses (hiati?) from their hockey schedules to disappear and play for their respective country’s Olympic teams, now that “professionals” are openly (see what I did there) encouraged to participate, and it seems almost impossible in many different sports for true amateurs (if there even be any) to get a look see.

    • #1
  2. Gossamer Cat Coolidge
    Gossamer Cat
    @GossamerCat

    She (View Comment):

    Karen Humiston: Do you believe in miracles? Why yes. Yes, I do.

    I do, too. In fact, I’ve seen what I believe to have been more than one in my life.

    As far as this particular one was concerned, I remember it very clearly. It was a different time, a different world, and a moment quite like no other in sports before, or perhaps since.

    We’ve lost something since then, I think, and not only in the sports world where NHL players now take lengthy hiatuses (hiati?) from their hockey schedules to disappear and play for their respective country’s Olympic teams, now that “professionals” are openly (see what I did there) encouraged to participate, and it seems almost impossible in many different sports for true amateurs (if there even be any) to get a look see.

    I agree one hundred percent.  What made the Miracle on Ice so special (the movie Miracle captures the moment perfectly) was the fact that it was college kids going up against the Soviet professionals.  I remember watching the miracle on a little black and white television in my college dorm room.  So thrilling!  Along with Secretariat’s win at the Belmont, I still get tears in my eyes and feel a visceral joy every time I watch them.  

    • #2
  3. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    Watch the movie about it.  It’s amazing, and they cast actual hockey players for the lead roles, teaching them to act.  The result is probably the greatest hockey film ever made. 

    • #3
  4. tigerlily Member
    tigerlily
    @tigerlily

    Here’s a video of the last 30 seconds or so of the game including Al Michaels’ famous call.

    • #4
  5. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    I was never a hockey fan, but it was the most exciting game, any game, I’d ever seen.

    • #5
  6. OldPhil Coolidge
    OldPhil
    @OldPhil

    As a long-time hockey fan, I would have paid a pretty penny to be in that arena that day. In the early 90’s we took our son to several hockey camps at Lake Placid and loved just sitting in those seats thinking about the game.

    • #6
  7. DonG (skeptic) Coolidge
    DonG (skeptic)
    @DonG

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    Watch the movie about it. It’s amazing, and they cast actual hockey players for the lead roles, teaching them to act. The result is probably the greatest hockey film ever made.

    I just finished watching Miracle.  Kurt Russell is great.  They do a very good job of setting the national mood, where the US has seen a decade of horrific events (Watergate, gas lines, ‘Nam, “malaise”, inflation, hostage crisis,…)   The win came when we needed it.

    • #7
  8. Doug Watt Moderator
    Doug Watt
    @DougWatt

    There is the Forgotten Miracle of 1960.

    • #8
  9. DJ EJ Member
    DJ EJ
    @DJEJ

    I just finished re-watching the game in its entirety on YouTube and I was still on the edge of my seat, despite knowing the outcome. My Dad has never really been into hockey, but the whole family watched the tape-delayed broadcast that night. We were all on our feet celebrating at the end of the game. My three most vivid childhood memories of world events are the attempted assassination of President Reagan, the space shuttle Challenger disaster, and the Miracle on Ice – the one happy memory of the three. This article gives details of the special programming airing tomorrow the 23rd:

    1980 Miracle on Ice commemorative programming

    • #9
  10. Buckpasser Member
    Buckpasser
    @Buckpasser

    Doug Watt (View Comment):
    Doug Watt

    There is the Forgotten Miracle of 1960.

    I believe that Herb Brooks who coached the 1980 team was one of the last players cut from the 1960 team.

    • #10
  11. DJ EJ Member
    DJ EJ
    @DJEJ

    I just watched “Miracle” on ESPN and the “Miracle On Ice at 40” on ABC earlier in the afternoon, and both made me think of how sad Bernie Sanders must have been that his favorite team lost to the Americans.

    • #11
  12. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    The audio from the videotapes of those games are so poor that when Disney made the movie they brought Al Michaels and Ken Dryden into a studio to recreate the calls. Only the last 10 seconds of the audio in the movie is real.

    What is truly remarkable about the movie is the choreography. All the plays had to be painstakingly recreated and that isn’t easy to do. 

    • #12
  13. Mark Wilson Member
    Mark Wilson
    @MarkWilson

    EJHill (View Comment):

    What is truly remarkable about the movie is the choreography. All the plays had to be painstakingly recreated and that isn’t easy to do.

    In the scene where Brooks makes them stay after the game in Norway and skate line drills, the exhaustion and vomiting of the players is all real.  They skated for 12 hours a day for three days to get all the footage for that scene.

    • #13
  14. GlennAmurgis Coolidge
    GlennAmurgis
    @GlennAmurgis

    The late 70s were not a great time in the US, esp if you lived in the Rust Belt

    Double-digit inflation, double digit interest rage, gas lines, the Carter malaise, the Iran hostages (plus we had disco)

    The Win over the Soviets was a more than a Hockey game, it was a shot in the arm

    • #14
  15. Vince Guerra Member
    Vince Guerra
    @VinceGuerra

    A few years ago ESPN’s 30 for 30 did a documentary called Of Miracles and Men. It tells the story of the Soviet team, and the ramifications that befell them as a result. It’s a pretty fascinating contrast, and also shows how (arguably) some of the greatest players in history never got to play in the NHL because of the Soviets stranglehold on their careers. https://m.imdb.com/title/tt4340556/

    • #15