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OLDE SPORTS HISTORY - USA HOCKEY TEAM CELEBRATES "THE MIRACLE ON ICE" WIN OVER SOVIETS IN LAKE PLACID OLYMPIC GAMES - 1980

The 1980 U.S. Olympic Team

The 1980 United States Olympic Hockey Team will forever remain etched in our memories as one of the greatest sporting events of all-time. In fact, Sports Illustrated selected the team's victory over the Soviet Union en route to winning the gold medal as the No. 1 sports moment of the 20th century. It was a magical ride that happened amidst the backdrop of the Iranian hostage crisis and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan - events that made the now fabled "Miracle on Ice" even more impactful on American history.

The Americans, who, since the inception of the Winter Games, had won one gold medal (1960), four silver medals (1924, 1952, 1956 & 1972), and one bronze (1936), were eager to bring home some hardware on their native soil. Having finished fourth during the previous Olympics, in 1976 at Innsbruck, Austria, under coach "Badger" Bob Johnson, the U.S. knew it would never have a better opportunity than the one they had in front of them in Lake Placid, N.Y.

The coach of the squad was Herb Brooks, who was no stranger to the U.S. Olympic hockey program. After being the last man cut from the gold medal team's roster in 1960, Brooks went on to play on the 1964 and 1968 Olympic teams, as well as on five other U.S. National Teams. Brooks, who had just finished leading the University of Minnesota's Golden Gophers to the national championship in 1979, now had the responsibility of selecting the 20 players to represent his United States Olympic team. Brooks didn't take any chances, he went with what he knew - local boys. So, while 12 of the 20 players on the final roster were native Minnesotans, nine of those 12 were players whom Brooks had coached as Gophers.

"Having played international hockey for so many years, it gives me an awfully warm feeling to be selected as head coach for the 1980 Olympics," Brooks said of his new job. "I'm extremely honored and humbled. To be picked when there are so many outstanding amateur hockey coaches in the nation, well, let's just say it's something I never really expected to happen."

In early September, the team began as challenging an exhibition schedule as had ever been organized for an American Olympic squad. Beginning with an initial European tour in early September, the team played a 61-game pre-Olympic schedule against foreign, college and professional teams, ultimately finishing with a 42-16-3 record. It was during this time together that the players were introduced to Brooks' new offensive game plan called the 'weave.' Brooks felt that if his club was going to compete against Europeans, they had better learn how to play like Europeans.

Team USA's scoring by lines

G A Pts
Schneider-Pavelich-Harrington 17 20 34
McClanahan-Johnson-Silk 17 14 28
Eruzione-Broten-Christoff 7 4 11
Verchota-Wells-Strobel 6 5 11 Entering the XIII Winter Olympic Games, the team was a decided underdog, an evaluation that seemed confirmed by a 10-3 defeat at the hands of the Soviets in the final exhibition game in New York City's Madison Square Garden. Though seeded seventh in the 12-nation pool, the Americans felt they had something to prove. The Americans took on Sweden in the opening game, as Bill Baker scored with 27 seconds remaining in the third period to give the U.S. a 2-2- tie. The goal acted as a catalyst for the young Americans, who then upset Czechoslovakia, and their amazing Stastny brothers, 7-3, thanks to goals from Pavelich, Schneider, Verchota and McClanahan. After beating Norway and Rumania, now only West Germany (the team that knocked them out of the bronze medal in 1976) stood in the way of getting into the medal round.

Down 2-0 in the first, the Minnesota boys came through big as McClanahan and Broten each tallied to tie it up. McClanahan then scored again on another breakaway in the third, and Phil Verchota lit the lamp late to give the U.S. a 4-2 win over the Germans. This gave the Americans a round robin record of 4-0-1, and a date with the mighty Soviets - who were led by Vladislav Tretiak, the world's premier goaltender. The Soviets, who had outscored their opponents 51-11 through their first five games, were just another of a long line of dynasty teams that had won the last four Olympic gold's and five of the last six. In fact, the only team to beat them since 1956 was the U.S. squad, 20 years earlier in 1960.
 

OLDE SPORTS HISTORY - USA HOCKEY TEAM CELEBRATES "THE MIRACLE ON ICE" WIN OVER SOVIETS IN LAKE PLACID OLYMPIC GAMES - 1980






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