With just three seconds left on the clock, Al Michaels asked “Do you believe in miracles?”What followed was a U.S. hockey victory over the Soviets in a semi-finals game of the 1980 Winter Olympics.
This has been looked at as the single greatest victory in American sports history.
Before the 1980 Winter Olympics, the Soviets had assembled what was considered the best hockey team in the world having won gold medals in 1964, 1968, 1972, and 1976.
By all means the Soviets were considered the hockey juggernauts of the late `60s and throughout the `70s.
Controversy surrounded the Soviets and their international hockey team because of their “amateur” status that some proclaimed as misleading.
The American team lead by Herb Brooks was comprised of true amateur players with some still in college.
On top of that two weeks before the Olympic Games started, the Soviets had beaten the Americans 10-3 at Madison Square Garden.
Add in a history of political tension between the U.S. and the Soviets and it made the win, known as “the Miracle on Ice”, a little sweeter for the Americans.
As mentioned the U.S. and Soviets haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. Later in 1980 during the Summer Olympics in Moscow, the U.S. and several other countries didn’t send teams to the games as a protest to Russian invading Afghanistan.
Eighteen years before the 1980 Olympics the U.S. and the Soviets were engaged in what is now known as the “missile crisis.” The U.S. had stationed nuclear missiles in Turkey, which is close to Russia, and tensions grew when Russia made a similar strategic move by sending nuclear missiles to Cuba.
Ever since the Cold War started in the 1940s the Soviets have been portrayed as the bad guys. Just two years after the 1980 Olympic games, U.S. President Ronald Reagan started referring to the Soviets as the “evil empire.”
Its easy to look back on the 1980 Winter Olympics and forget that the Americans actually went on to win a gold medal after defeating the “evil empire” 4-3.
Some would even argue that despite winning gold against Finland, the biggest victory of the Olympic games for the Americans was their win over the Soviets, which still resonates today through out America’s collective psyche, a miracle of epic proportions.