Few thought that the U.S. Olympic Hockey team had a chance. Their opponents were seemingly invincible. They were a gold medal-winning machine. At their hands, the Americans had previously suffered demoralizing defeat. The best outcome for which they could hope was to (in the old sports cliche) ‘give them a game.’
Although they were long-shot underdogs, given little chance of winning, the Americans believed in themselves. They believed in their team. Most importantly, they believed in the dream.
On February 22, the U.S. Olympic Hockey team achieved what most believed to be impossible.
Once in a lifetime, right? Not exactly.
It happened twice; exactly 38 years apart.
Deja Vu on Ice?
On Thursday, February 22, 2018, the U.S. Women’s Olympic Hockey team ended their 20-year wait for a gold medal in women’s ice hockey with a dramatic victory over Canada. The U.S. had not beaten Canada since 1998, and the Canadians seemed set for a fifth-straight women’s hockey gold. However, in the end, it was the United States that achieved an improbable victory over their highly-favored opponent.
Thursday’s win took place 38 years to the day since the U.S. men’s team upset the Soviet Union 4-3 in the medal round at Lake Placid, NY. The now fabled game that took place on February 22, 1980, has become known as the “Miracle on Ice.” As would be the case exactly 38 years later, the result prevented their opponent from winning a fifth straight Olympic gold medal. Although the victory for the 2018 U.S. Women’s team immediately earned them the gold medal, the United States Men’s team went on to win gold by beating Finland in the final match of the tournament.
History is Made: February 22, 1980
As the final period began, the Soviets were ahead 3-2. Then, midway through the stanza, the Americans scored and tied the game. Barely a minute later, team captain Mike Eruzione fired a puck into the Soviet net. The Americans had taken the lead, 4-3.
It was now up to an American goaltender to protect the lead and deliver a victory. Despite a vigorous workload throughout the 1980 Winter Games, U.S. coach, Herb Brooks, had elected to stay with Craig as the defender of his net. Coach Brooks’ faith in Craig paid off. The great American goalie continued to bat away one Soviet shot after another. Craig turned in what is, to-date, one of the most impressive performances in the history of Olympic hockey.
The United States had won. David had defeated Goliath.
The American players on the ice went crazy in jubilation. The rest of the team poured out from the bench waving their arms. Sticks were dropped. Gloves had been thrown to the ice. Teammates embraced as the crowd proudly waved American flags. American patriotism filled the air!
History Repeats Itself: February 22, 2018
With just over six minutes remaining in regulation time, Canada led 2-1. At the 6:21 mark, Monique Lamoreux-Morando finally broke through for the U.S. and scored the tying goal to send the game into overtime. For the first time, the Women’s Hockey Olympic gold would be decided by an unprecedented shootout.
After trading shootout successes with their Canadian counterparts, the Americans took the lead. Monique’s sister, Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson, scored in the sixth round of the shootout to put the U.S. ahead.
Once again, It was now up to an American goaltender to protect the lead and deliver a victory. U.S. coach Robb Stauber had made a brave call to start 20-year-old Maddie Rooney in goal. Much like Brooks in 1980, Stauber’s decision was vindicated based on faith in his goaltender. Rooney denied Canadian Meghan Agosta’s final shootout attempt.
The United States had won. David had once again defeated Goliath.
In a scene reminiscent of Lake Placid, there were scenes of mass celebration on the ice. The roster of U.S. women threw down their gloves and sticks to celebrate. Many of them were embracing each other, while draped in American flags. American patriotism once again filled the air.
For Americans everywhere, it has a nice familiar ring to it.
Believe in Miracles
It is hard to believe that it has been 38 years since announcer Al Michaels (calling the action from the booth) shouted: “DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES? YES!” (To put this in context, I was yet to be born.) The final minutes of the 1980 Olympic hockey contest between the United States and the Soviet Union were among the most thrilling in the history of sports. The “Miracle on Ice” has been immortalized in the annals of sports history, and deservedly so.
However, on its 38th anniversary, an equally determined and impressive team reminded us that no goal is insurmountable. Daunting as it may be, perseverance and faith will endure with the proper work ethic. It is that determined spirit that binds us. Not as Democrats or Republicans. Neither as liberals nor conservatives. Not even as Baby-Boomers, GenX-ers or Millenials. Its what binds us as Americans.
Congratulations to the 2018 United States Women’s Olympic hockey team for their well-deserved goal medal victory. On behalf of a Nation that was in desperate need for the reminder which you all provided on February 22, thank you. It is the same reminder that the U.S. Men’s Team gave to all of us 38 years earlier. Thank you for reminding us all that anything is possible as long as we believe.
Should we believe in miracles? YES!!!
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the National Football League and the National Hockey League. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC