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Action Replay: the day America's amateurs pulled off a sporting miracle

On 22 Feburary 1980 – 32 years ago today – America won an unlikely ice hockey gold at the Winter Olympics. This is the story of “the Miracle on Ice”.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gfD134ED54

YouTube Credit: buzbeto

THERE IS SOMETHING immensely satisfying about a group of amateur players trumping top professionals, no matter what the context.

In 2012, it is difficult to conceive of the American national ice hockey team as anything but one of the world’s greatest. After all, the National Hockey League has become synonymous with the sport, featuring stars who would challenge for a place on any all-time roster.

That wasn’t always the case though. In fact, back in 1980, the team which the US sent to the Winter Olympics was made up of amateurs and college players. When they were paired against the best team in the world, the Soviet Union, in the competition’s semi-finals, it seemed that a valiant defeat was the best possible outcome.

In the context of the Cold War, the game took on a heightened significance. With the 1980 games being staged in New York, America steeled itself for a famous Soviet victory in their own back-yard.

After all, the Russians had won Olympic Gold in 1964. And in 1968 and 1972. And then again in 1976.

Simply put, on the Olympic stage, they were practically unbeatable.

As with most great underdog stories, the favourites took an early lead, Krutov giving the Soviet Union a 1-0 advantage. America equalised. And so the pattern repeated itself until Mark Johnson tied the game at 3-3 mid-way through the final period.

Even when US captain Mike Eruzione gave America a single-goal lead with ten minutes left on the clock, few believed that the United States could pull off the most unlikely of upsets.

The clock kept ticking. The Americans defended as though their lives depended on it. Their nation’s honour did.

And the clock kept ticking, the Soviets panicking with each passing second.

With eleven seconds remaining, and the 8,500-capacity Field House on its feet in anticipation, the stage was set for Al Michaels to deliver some of the most memorable sporting commentary of all time.

Eleven seconds, you’ve got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles?…YES!

This post first appeared here as part of TheScore.ie’s Magnificent Seven series >

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Niall Kelly

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