On February 22, 1980, at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, a young, inexperienced United States’ men’s ice hockey team defeated the Soviet Union ‘Dream Team’ in the first game of the medal round, thereby creating one of the most dramatic upsets in Olympic history.
The Soviet Union team had won gold medals at the previous four Winter Olympics and, having beaten the United States 10-3 in an exhibition match at Madison Square Garden, New York City less than two weeks earlier, were overwhelming favourites to do so once again. However, despite their lack of National Hockey League (NHL) experience, the United States’ players held their own in the first quarter, which finished 2-2, and trailed just 3-2 at the end of the second, thanks in no small part to heroics on the part of goaltender James ‘Jim’ Craig.
Approaching the halfway point in the third, and final, period, Mark Johnson took advantage of a deflected shot by David Silk to level the scores at 3-3. Less than a minute-and-a-half later, captain Michael Eruzione, who previous experience was with the Toledo Blades in the International Hockey League, scored to give the United States a 4-3 lead. Despite intense pressure in the final five minutes, the Americans refused to panic and, with Craig once again the hero of the hour, held on to win what was later dubbed ‘The Miracle on Ice’. To complete the fairy tale, two days later, the United States beat Finland to win the gold medal.
Watch highlights from The Miracle on Ice