Going into the 1980 Winter Olympic Games, the Soviet Union’s hockey team was favored to win the gold medal. This outcome would not have been surprising since the Soviet team had won the gold at five of the past six Winter Olympic Games. In comparison to the U.S. team, the Soviet team was seemingly unstoppable as it included numerous former Olympic champions and individual players considered by all to be the best in the world.
The 1980 the U.S. hockey team, lead by coach Herb Brooks, was composed entirely of amateur players whose toughest level of competition took place at the inter-collegiate level. Doubts about the American team’s chances to beat the Soviets at the Olympics or even to win a medal were intensified following a ten to three victory by the Soviets over the Americans in a pre-Olympics exhibition game at Madison Square Garden.
Thirteen days later, the American team’s hard work and determination paid off on February 22, 1980, when the Soviet players looked on in disbelief (after winning every game leading into the medal round), as the game-ending buzzer sounded and the American team celebrated their incredible “miracle-like” four to three victory.
At the beginning of 1980, the Soviet Union’s power appeared on the rise and American hostages were still being held in Iran. The U.S. hockey team’s underdog triumph over the Soviets ignited the hope and optimism of an American public desperate for a sign of strength and better things to come. The “Miracle On Ice” victory of the U.S. Hockey Team over the Soviets is considered one of the most remarkable moments in the history of Olympic and American sports.