Sports have a way of bringing out our best, finding places within us that we weren’t even sure existed and using them to reach new heights. In fact, many of the most memorable moments from sports might prove to be too melodramatic for even a Hollywood script. In their best moments, sports can combine the anticipation, thrills and exuberance that might seem too far-fetched to be real.
In the 1980 Winter Olympics, the American Men’s Hockey team gave us exactly one of those moments. With almost four decades to recollect on the game, that team just might have given us the greatest sports moment of our collective lifetime.
The American team was filled with a bunch of rough-and-tumble players, each with an absolute passion for the game, their team and their country. They were facing the Soviet team in the semifinal, a squad that hadn’t lost a single game since 1968. Unlike the Americans, they trained year-round in a government-sponsored regimen that made them the world’s elite squad.
To further the drama, those winter games took place on American soil at the height of the Cold War. The tension provided a sense of political intrigue and spectacle that hasn’t been equaled since. The fact that the Soviets had beaten the American squad 10-3 just 13 days before only heightened the tension.
The teams traded scores for most of the game. In dramatic fashion, the American squad managed to keep the score tied each time the Soviets looked like they were about to take control. With 10 minutes left, however, the American captain, Mike Eruzione, scored on a 20-foot wrist shot that proved to be the winner. As the clock dwindled to zero, Al Michaels ad-libbed what might be the most famous call in all of sports — do you believe in miracles?
Few sports can provide the types of thrills that hockey has supplied us. That American team personified the very best qualities of the sport. They exhibited teamwork, perseverance and a fearless attitude in the face of extreme circumstances. While the Miracle on Ice might have been on the biggest stage possible, those same qualities are well-displayed on any rink.
Although it might lack the intense spotlight seen in those winter games, amateur hockey has the same tenacity and spirit. Those qualities make hockey a unique and thrilling sport, no matter the level and venue. Whether it’s in the Olympics, pros or amateur ranks, hockey will always provide those unforgettable thrills. They are part of the allure that makes hockey such a unique and inspiring sport.