Newspaper article MinnPost.com

36 Years Ago, the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team Performed a 'Miracle'

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

36 Years Ago, the U.S. Olympic Hockey Team Performed a 'Miracle'

Article excerpt

The Miracle on Ice is the name given to the American men's ice hockey victory over the heavily favored Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics. The team drew heavily on Minnesotan talent, including twelve players and coach Herb Brooks. Coming amid American setbacks in the Cold War, their unlikely win inspired and united the country.

St. Paul native Herb Brooks was head hockey coach for the University of Minnesota from 1972 to 1979. After being picked to lead the U.S. to the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, he selected much of his team from Minnesota, a state known for its hockey programs. Nine members had played for Brooks's Golden Gophers, who had won three national titles in six years.

Brooks used a European-style game of speed and passing. He emphasized teamwork, effort, and character in his players. To unite players from rival schools, he made himself a focal point for their frustrations by pushing their limits and criticizing them often. The team had forty-two wins, sixteen losses, and two ties against college, National Hockey League (NHL), and European teams in exhibition play.

Just months into the Iranian Hostage Crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, America's confidence and international reputation were suffering. The United States, ranked seventh in hockey, was not considered a medal contender. They tied their first game against Sweden with a goal from Grand Rapids native Bill Baker with twenty-seven seconds remaining. A win over second-seeded Czechoslovakia and victories against Norway, Romania, and West Germany propelled the team to the medal round.

The United States needed wins against both the Soviet Union and Finland to guarantee a gold medal. The Soviet Union was widely expected to win their fifth-straight hockey gold medal. The young Americans were considered no match for the experienced Soviets. The Soviet team had proven their skill with a victory over the 1979 NHL All Stars and a 10-3 win over the Americans prior to the Olympics.

In the February 22 game, the Soviet Union scored first, with Vladimir Krutov deflecting a long shot to take the lead. Eveleth native Mark Pavelich then stole the puck and passed to Babbitt's Buzz Schneider, who scored the tying goal. …

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