Unite At Tailgate Social
Miracle on Ice And Other Nice Things About Sports
Sports are a great way to bring people together, and if you’re looking for a great local sports bar, unite at Tailgate Social. With its 30 high-definition TVs, great food, and fun atmosphere, it’s a great place to go watch sports with old friends where you’ll end up making some new ones. The ability of sports to unify is especially needed in today’s cultural climate. February 24th, 2023, marked the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Coincidentally, February 22nd, 2023 was the 43rd anniversary of the Miracle on Ice. Revisiting this amazing moment in sports history is a great way to combat the darkness when things seem bleak, and it’s an even better reminder that sports offer solace and community among other things.
In 1980 the Cold War was raging on. The Berlin Wall had yet to fall, and communism was still seen as a huge threat to the United States. President Jimmy Carter had just announced that the United States was not going to participate in the summer Olympics because they were being held in Moscow. The Soviet Union had just invaded Afghanistan a few years prior, there was a major recession within the American economy, and the Iranian hostage crisis signified the way the rest of the world viewed the United States. America was not feeling like the major international player that it is often thought of as today.
Going into the 1980 Winter Olympics, the United States team was definitely the underdog. No one expected the seventh-seeded team to advance far at all, especially since the average age of the team was only 22 years. Most of the members of Team USA were college kids with no NHL experience. In contrast, the Soviet team had won the gold medal in the last four consecutive Olympics, with their streak starting in 1964. Naturally, they were heavily favored to win the gold again. In an exhibition game prior to the start of the Olympics, the Soviet team beat the United States team 10 to 3. The fact that the United States team subsequently made it through several rounds of the actual official Olympic games was a huge deal. So when it came for the US to face the Soviets, the overall hope for most Americans wasn’t for a win but rather anything besides another huge blowout like the exhibition game.
When the American team finally met the Soviet Union team at Lake Placid on February 22, 1980, the game started off like most expected. Valery Krotov hit a slapshot past American goalie Jim Craig in the first period. Somehow Buzz Schneider, the only American player on the team with any prior Olympic experience, got a goal past renowned Soviet goaltender Vladislav Tretiak. After the Soviets took a 2-1 lead with a few seconds left in the first, the U.S.’s Dave Christian, desperately cleared the puck out of the zone, somehow connecting with teammate Mark Johnson, who scored with only one second remaining. The Soviees protested due to the timing, but the game was deemed tied.
The Americans had managed to get under the Soviets’ skin. They pulled Vladislav Tretiak after only one period and two goals allowed, and they replaced him with Vladimir Myshkin. The Russian coach, Viktor Tikhonov, later called this the “worst mistake of his career.” Despite the shocking goalie switch, the Soviets dominated the play in the second period. They were up 3-2 by the first two minutes into the period. It was only because Jim Craig made what seemed like thousands of saves that the United States was able to keep a one-goal deficit (in actuality, the Soviets outshot the United States 12-2). No one could believe that the United States was going into the third period only lagging behind one goal.
It was a slashing penalty 6 minutes into the period that turned the tides red, white, and blue. Johnson took advantage of the power play and hit a wild shot that tied the game up at 3-3. Not even 90 seconds later, Mike Eruzione scored to give the US the lead for the first time in the entire game (fun fact: eruzione means “eruption” in Italian). Although it sounds cliche, the crowd went wild. The problem was that there were still 10 minutes left in the game. If anyone watching in the stands had any nails left after that, it would be the second miraculous thing to happen during that game. The Soviets pressured hard, but Jim Craig and the team resisted. Suddenly, the crowd started chanting down the last five seconds, and when the buzzer sounded the entire U.S. team and personnel stormed the ice. Most Americans would later watch the recording of the game because–and this is true–ABC opted to air an Olympic-themed episode of The Pink Panther.
Even though this wasn’t the game for the gold medal, it was a very symbolic win for the United States. The win did let the United States team advance to the championship where they ultimately beat Finland and won the gold. But it was the defeat of the favorite and the international bully that made this a memorable event. Additionally, this underdog team still captures the hearts of Americans and sports fans alike because of the way that they trained and used old-fashioned hard work in order to achieve success. It’s said that the coach of the United States team, made sure that the team was in the best athletic condition that any hockey team had ever been in. This hard work and can-do attitude embodies the American spirit and provides hope on and off the ice.
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