The 33rd Anniversary of “Miracle On Ice”
by The Milton Measure on Friday, February 22nd, 2013
February 22nd will mark the 33rd anniversary of what Sport’s Illustrated has called “The Top Sports Moment of the 20th Century.” Even though most readers were not alive when the United States Olympic Hockey Team defeated the Soviets in a semi-final matchup in Lake Placid, NY deemed the “Miracle on Ice,” many know the story from the movie Miracle. Many people, however, still probably don’t appreciate the magnitude of the United States victory against a Soviet team that was unbeaten in Olympic play for almost 20 years.
The Soviet hockey team was a product of many years of research and training by the Soviet Armed Forces, and each of their players had access to world-class facilities and training personnel. In fact, the Soviet Olympic Hockey team was one of the first groups to ever use plyometric training, something unheard of in the US in the 1980s. Each of the Soviet players was a seasoned professional who had played with the team and the other players for a minimum of 10 years, some of these players were deemed the best in the world. Take for example the Soviet Goalie, Vladislav Tretiak, who was regarded as the world’s best, as well as the Soviet First Line, the Petrov-Kharlamov-Mikhailov Line, also regarded as the best combination on the planet. With this kind of star power, the Soviet Hockey Team was able to easily beat many NHL teams that they played in exhibition, not to mention the 6-0 thrashing the Soviets dished out to the NHL All-Star Team assembled that year.
The United States Olympic Hockey Team was a much different story. Assembled from a group of amateur college hockey players, the team had low expectations for the upcoming Olympics, and had its share of Minnesota-Massachusetts grudges. But under the watchful eye of Coach Herb Brooks, now regarded as a coaching legend, the team quickly coalesced. The team underwent grueling training, conditioning, and mental preparation for 6 months, and then team undertook an aggressive 61 game exhibition schedule for 5 months. Even with all this preparation, the Soviets crushed the Americans by a score of 10-3 in a exhibition game at Madison Square Garden, 3 days before the opening of the Olympic Games.
Many people were surprised to find the Americans in the medal round, and they also expected them to be crushed once again. But the Americans played an almost heroic game, beating the Soviets by a score of 4-3, scoring 2 goals in the third period when trailing 3-2 to upset the greatest hockey powerhouse in the world. American Goalie Jim Craig put on an all-star performance, turning away 36 shots for the win. The Americans were even able to get Vladislav Tretiak pulled after the first period, after he gave up 2 goals on 8 shots, something that had never happened before. The result sent the entire U.S jumping for joy, raising the spirits of many in a time of political unrest between the Soviet Union and the United States. In many ways, the game represented much more than what it actually was: it became a symbol of American dominance over the Soviet Union and one of the most remembered sports upsets in history.
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