Muscle Sport Magazine

No Second ‘Miracle on Ice’ With Professionals in Olympics

Taking nothing away from the United States’ shootout victory over Russia in Olympic hockey, but anyone who tries to call this another ‘Miracle on Ice’ is sadly mistaken. The world is a different place than it was in 1980 and the magnitude of international competition is on a much lower scale than it was 30 years ago.

Back then, with the Cold War in full effect and the Red Menace stalking the free world, the group of youngsters wearing the red, white and blue had more than just a medal at stake. The 4-3 win over the Soviet Union was akin to David killing Goliath. The Russians were the world power in hockey and a year earlier, had beaten the NHL All-Stars two games to one in the Challenge Cup at Madison Square Garden. Then just a few days before the Olympics began, they drubbed the US hockey team 10-2 at the same venue.

Both teams had played exceptionally well leading up to the semi-final game. The Americans were surprising everyone with wins versus Czechoslovakia and West Germany while the USSR was doing what was expected of them. The game itself was not even deemed important enough at the time to be shown on live television, with most figuring that the Russians would win in a cake walk. But by the time ABC showed it on tape delay a few hours later, the majority of the country was already aware of the shocking upset.

Just how did they pull it off? Many point to the decision to pull starting goaltender Vladislav Tretiak, who was the top minder on the planet, after he let up a soft goal at the end of the first period to let the US get level at 1-1. Many suspected that the decision came from high above, something that head coach Viktor Tikhonov later suggested.

“I don’t think that I should have been replaced in that game,” Tretiak wrote in his autobiography. “I had made so many mistakes already, I was confident my play would only improve. (Back-up gaoltender Vladimir Myshkin) is an excellent goalie, but he wasn’t prepared for the struggle, he wasn’t ‘tuned in’ to the Americans.”

At the end of the second period, the Soviets clearly dominated but only had a slim 3-2 advantage. Mark Johnson scored his second goal of the game on a power play to knot things up and team captain Mike Eruzione scored the eventual game-winner with 10 minutes left in the contest. For once, youth was an advantage over experience with the faster US squad able to beat the veteran Soviets to the puck and hang on for dear life.

Even in the waning seconds, the game was still in the balance. This set up the most memorable call in sports history when television announcer Al Micheals said, “You’ve got 10 seconds; the countdown going on right now. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”


Lake Placid was a microcosm of an entire nation that Friday, and when the US beat Finland two days later by a score of 4-2 to win the gold medal, it seemed like a formality.

The changes that have taken place since then in the world and in hockey are immeasurable. A few players from that Russian team ended up in the NHL once the wall of communism fell, an unfathomable thought at the time. With the continued complaints that other nations were sending professionals to compete against collegiate-level players, some genius made the decision to put together ‘Dream Teams.’

Sure, the first one with the NBA players (plus Christian Laetenner, who was still in college in 1992) was fun to see, but the novelty wore thin after that. Having regular season teammates go against each other in the Olympics takes some of the excitement out of it and winning does not have the same importance.


Playing for your country does have a different aura to it than anything else, but for a millionaire who already has a Stanley Cup to his name, this break in the middle of the season may be more of a distraction and hindrance than anything else.

There is no way to top the accomplishments of the 1980 team. Having the NHL players even try is comical.

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