Monday, March 1, 2010

Do You Believe In Miracles . . .

Unfortunately, this post is not going as planned.  My original idea was a compare/contrast between the two gold medal winning U.S. Olympic Hockey Teams - 1980 and 2010.  Alas, victory escaped the U.S. in the last few minutes of overtime!  Congratulations to our neighbors to the North, Canada - great game! 

Let's reflect on 1980 . . .

Thirty years have passed since that Sunday afternoon, but I still remember February 24, 1980 very clearly.  We were a family of all girls (except for Dad!) and sports were not a big part of our family life.  Sitting down to watch a sporting event together (or separately) did not happen very often - actually it didn't happen at all!  But on that one Sunday afternoon in February, we were all mesmerized by what was happening at an ice rink two hundred miles away in Lake Placid, New York.  Was it because the team was comprised of so many locals (Jim Craig, Jack O'Callahan, Mike Eruzione and Dave Silk were all Massachusetts natives and attended Boston University)?  Or was the world captivated by these young men because they were true underdogs - college hockey players who had been thrown together as a team only six months before, training with Coach Herb Brooks to play against professional players from all over the world?

The gold medal winning game was against Finland, but much of the focus was on their game against the U.S.S.R.  The political climate in the between the U.S. and the Soviets in 1980 was unfriendly, a holdover from the Cold War that had begun decades earlier.  The U.S.S.R. had also invaded Afghanistan just weeks before the Olympic Games began, causing even more friction between the two nations and making the two teams natural rivals.

On February 22, 1980 the Soviets and the U.S. took the ice in an arena that was filled to capacity (about 8,500 spectators).  Strangely enough, most Americans didn't see it live.  It was run on ABC on tape delay because the network wanted to show it in prime time, not at the actual time it happened (5:00 PM EST) to have a larger viewing audience.  ABC tried to get the start time of the game moved to 8:00 PM, but the Soviets fought the change, as it would have meant the game would be shown in their countries in the very early hours of morning.  

A U.S. victory was not expected, and when Mike Eruzione scored the goal to bring the score to 4-3 in the third period, the fans in the arena went wild.  With seconds left in the game, the crowd began a countdown and the famous words were called out by Al Michaels of ABC Sports:  "Do you believe in miracles?  YES!"

The U.S. went on to capture the gold two days later in a match against Finland, with a score of 4-2.  During the medal ceremony, only the team captain was allowed up on the podium for the national anthem.  After the completion of the song, Captain Mike Eruzione motioned for his teammates to join him, feeling the entire team should be able to participate in the honor.  Today, podiums are built large enough for all the players receive their medals together as a team.

Today's Olympic hockey team is comprised of professionals, and I realize it does even the playing field of the skill level of the athletes.  Sadly, never again will we have the excitement of watching a group of  amateurs take on some of the best professional athletes in the world . . . and win!

Sadly, Coach Herb Brooks passed away in 2003 at the age of 66, but the motivational speech he gave his team on the day of the game against the Soviets will go down in history:

"Tonight, we stay with them, and we shut them down because we can!  Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world.  You were born to be hockey players - every one of you.  And you were meant to be here tonight.  This is your time.  Their time - is done.  It's over."

(Photos courtesy of Wikipedia)

1 comment:

acorndreaming said...

Thanks for the recap of the 1980 win. I have never followed hockey. I dated a guy once who loved hockey, but it never really rubbed off on me.

I did watch the U.S Canada gold medal match though. Twitter pretty much made me do it. :) Everyone was so excited about it on Twitter that I felt like I should at least check it out.

It only took halfway through the first period and I was yelling at my television. It was a great game. I think I might be a hockey fan now.