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“Here you had a group of 18, 19 year old college kids who had really never played together… and here they are going up against these communist countries, particularly the Soviet Union. Where a lot of those guys were professional hockey players.”
“Having the US win the Olympic medal in hockey was the greatest thing that could happen to a teenager like myself… watching this event and the buildup to it. It was a tremendous event and it left you speechless.”
For my interview I spoke with my father about the 1980 “Miracle on Ice”. The preceding years to the game were very gloomy. Although Carter had solved the oil embargo of 1973-74, it had left a lasting impression on Americans and portended the economic downfall of the late 70s. The recession of the 1970s left the United States with an unemployment rate of 8%; the highest since the Great Depression. Furthermore, the US was in the midst of the Cold War; a very terrifying time. Also, the US was coming off of the Vietnam war which ended in the early 70’s. To top it all off, the Iranian Hostage Crisis was in full force. In other words, the US was not in it’s best form. Yet, out of this darkness a source of inspiration was forged; the 1980 Miracle on Ice.
The 1980 Olympic team was comprised mostly of college hockey players because, at the time, professional athletes were not allowed to compete in the Olympics. However, the Soviet Union had a loophole. Many of the Soviet Union’s players were technically employed by the Red Army; even though they had almost no military duties. Essentially, the USSR players were professional athletes, however they maintained their amateur titles.
Despite that they were amateurs, the US team began to win games. After picking up wins against Czechoslovakia, Norway, Romania, and West Germany the team faced the USSR in the semifinals. Amidst the Cold War, the Soviet Union was the US’ distinct, bitter rival. With the crowds ebullient, the US hockey team routed the Soviet Union; with a decisive goal by captain Mike Eruzione with ten minutes left. The US would hold on to win the game and shock the world. The streak continued when the US beat Finland in the championship game to win the Olympic gold medal.
The Miracle on Ice ignited US nationalism, it proved that Americans could achieve anything. The tournament was a source of inspiration; the unqualified, amateur Americans rallied to beat the professional, skilled Soviets. The game was a blow to the Soviets, their bitter rival defeated them in their highest degree of excellence. The tournament foreshadowed the eventual downfall of the Soviets and the US’ triumph in the Cold War.