Forty years ago today, the United States Hockey team won the gold medal at the Lake Placid Olympics, defeating Finland 4-2 in a game that almost no one remembers. That’s because two days earlier, the U.S. beat the Soviet Union, in an upset that became known as “the Miracle on Ice.”
Herb Brooks, who coached the University of Minnesota hockey team to three NCAA championships, built a team of 20 skaters from the college and minor-league ranks to compete against the best the world could provide. The Soviet Union built its team of professionals, men trained to play the game since boyhood and then placed on the Red Army team, where they honed those skills throughout the year.
The Soviets were in line to win their fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal in 1980, having not only destroyed whatever amateur competition the world could provide, but having crushed the NHL in a series of exhibition contests over the years. (The glorious exception being the 1972 Summit Series and a 1976 beating the Philadelphia Flyers put on them.) They cruised into the medal round, expecting to win easily.
The U.S. eked its way into the medal round, having tied Sweden in the opening game of the tournament and then defeating Norway, West Germany, Romania and Czechoslovakia. The semi-final game against the Russians took place on Friday at 5 p.m., despite U.S. attempts to get the game moved to prime time for TV.
Despite being out-shot 39-16 and never leading throughout the first 50 minutes of the game, the U.S. ended up taking a lead with exactly 10 minutes to play in the third period. Mike Eruzione’s shot on Vladimir Myshkin found the back of the net and the U.S. had a 4-3 advantage. Despite pelting goalie Jim Craig with a barrage of shots over the next 10 minutes, the Russians couldn’t solve him.
In honor of this monumental event, which I could spend a few hundred thousand words yammering on and on about, I put together this AP style quiz based on the Miracle on Ice team and its Olympic run.
Click here to try it out. You don’t need an account to play, but if you have one, it will track your score for an overall ranking. Challenge your professor to play and post a screen shot of your victory to claim bragging rights.