‘Eleven seconds, you’ve got ten seconds.
Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game.
Do you believe in miracles?!? YES!!!’
Lauded by Sports Illustrated as the Top Sporting Moment of the 20th Century’ the Miracle on Ice is the stuff of all-American legend. In the Winter Olympics of 1980 the Soviet Union were defeated by America, but this wasn’t your regular superpower clash. Littered with global legends, the Russians had lost one of their previous 29 games, had scored three for each goal conceded and had thrashed an NHL All-Star team 6-0 the previous year. Facing them was a team of amateur college players hastily thrown together five months before with an average age of 21.
Even with the David vs Goliath face off, the Cold War added an extra dimension to the clash. Two months before on Christmas Day 1979 the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. This shattered a fragile peace as an aggressive Russia swept dangerously close to the oil wells of the Middle East. As President Carter scrambled a western response, former actor and political nobody Ronald Reagan plotted his route to the White House on the back of aggressive pro-American rhetoric. But I digress.
American media predicted that ‘unless the ice melts’ the Soviet Union would claim the gold medal. But as match day beckoned the young Americans worked on stamina to boost the physical nature of their game while the Russians studied plays in their hotel. The intimate crowd of 8,500 belted out ‘God Bless America’ as the teams skated out for the match to begin.
The Russians swept into the lead and peppered the American goal with shots from all over the rink. They added another before one was pulled back. The Russian goaltender Tretiak was not only the Red Army shot stopper but was in the Soviet League All Star team from 1971 to 1984. But this was not his day. Seconds before the first period buzzer, he fluffed the puck and the Americans flucked a fortuitous equaliser. He was controversially pulled from the game but his replacement did not fare much better.
Entering the third and final period the Russians led 3 goals to 2. Gifted a power play, the athletic Americans notched two quick goals. Ten minutes remained. The Russians panicked. They shot wildly, hoping for a break that was destined not to come. As the clock ticked down the commentator Al Michaels delivered his famous lines and America were victorious.
Seen as the greatest upset in American sport the ‘miracle on ice’ cast the team into folklore. Never again would the world witness such a sporting shock. Never again would such odds be overcome. Never again would victory be snatched from the jaws of defeat in such enigmatic fashion. Well not until 2016…