On NPR, Al Michaels said that the U.S. hockey team’s victory over the USSR at Lake Placid 35 years ago was a similar kind of event to Pearl Harbor, the JFK assassination, or 9/11 in that everyone remembers where they were when it happened–except that this was a happy memory.
But I have to confess: I don’t remember it; never even heard about it until years later. This in spite of the fact that I do remember those Winter Olympics (the first Winter Games I can recall). Specifically, I vividly remember Eric and Beth Heiden, the siblings that competed in speedskating. (Wiki-ing just now, I discover that Eric won five gold medals at those Games, but sister Beth only a single bronze medal…so I guess it was just the interesting human angle that makes me remember her.)
And my dad played hockey in prep school, and bought me hockey skates years before that, taught me to skate and handle a puck when we’d go up to Maine at Xmastime. I never remember him watching team sports on TV though (he was OTOH interested in watching the speedskating, which he subsequently got into himself).
I wasn’t around for Pearl Harbor. I was for the Apollo Missions but too young to remember where I was or even anything about them (including the moon landing). 9/11 I know where I was (in front of a TV.)
Was the Miracle on Ice anywhere close to these events historically? No.
Do I remember where I was when I heard about it? Yes.
I don’t remember where I was when the OJ Bronco chase happened, or when the verdict was read. Nor the start of either Iraq War.
It actually is seared into my memory, fondly, much like 9/11 (which is NOT a fond memory). I was not alive for Pearl Harbor or JFK. I was born on the day Neil Armstrong allegedly walked on the moon, so I do not have first-hand memories of that either.
I was about 10 or 11. For some reason, I had been following the entire series of hockey games in that particular Olympics and the US wasn’t really seen as a very strong team going into the games. The last couple games that got them to the USSR game were real squeakers so it really did not look like the US – young amateurs – could beat the USSR team, which were all seasoned professionals and played together for years.
So yeah, it seemed like a goddamned miracle. The winning point was scored early in the third period, IIRC, or late in the second. The game was on TV at an odd hour – like Saturday afternoon or something? My whole family was home, but everyone was scattered about the house doing chores and I was the only one who’d flipped on the TV to check on the game. I sat there, rooted to the couch, and could not finish my chores. By the time the winning point was scored, I was screaming and yelling so much, pretty much the whole family gathered to see what all my fussing was about and we watched the end together. And then I’ve never seen a whole hockey team get up on the podium at the medal ceremony, before or since. That was a really, really cool thing to see. Those guys were up there as one person. So amazing. That game made me a hockey fan for life. (And yes, I loved the movie, Miracle – especially when they spliced in Al Michael’s actual audio for the last 30 or so seconds of the game. That gave me shivers because I so vividly remember him saying that, just off the cuff, a purely emotional, excited, proud, thrilled announcer.)
See? 30+ years later and I still can recall the whole thing in detail. I could describe my 9/11 day with the same level of detail. And of course, the only difference being one was a really happy memory and the other was a sickening, sad memory.
So yes. When it comes to hockey, I believe in miracles.
That might’ve been part of why my dad wasn’t into it, despite being a hockey guy. He was also an anthropologist and kind of an anti-jingoist if that’s a word.
Dogzilla, it might surprise you to learn that I watched that movie with Kurt Russell, and enjoyed it. But you and I are almost exactly the same age, and I only learned about the whole thing years later.
Actually, the game was broadcast (on tape delay) in prime time. The winning goal was scored in the 3rd period, with 10 minutes remaining. And it was not a gold medal game (the U.S. still had to beat Finland), so the team didn’t gather on the podium after it ended.
It just goes to show you how vivid memories really are.
I always think it’s strange, how that detail of it not being the final game is left out. Would it still be remembered so fondly had the U.S. not won gold? Also, the way the medals was determined seems very odd and arcane. It actually sounds like it was more complicated than “they had to beat Finland” but I’ll be damned if I can describe the exact win conditions. Why not just determine the top three teams with this system, have the top two play each other for the gold, and give the third team the bronze? Or, as in tennis, have the third and fourth place teams play for bronze.
ETA: How difficult would it have been at that time, I wonder, for people to learn the outcome before the tape-delayed game was shown?
I wasn’t born yet in 1980. But let’s say the USA had come back from an 0-2 deficit and defeated Canada 3-2 in the 2010 Winter Olympics gold-medal game. Which is, in, fact, very nearly what happened.
Most people would still rank the 1980 Miracle on Ice as the greater hockey game, but I would probably remember such a USA victory over Canada for many years. So I don’t think the 1980 Miracle on Ice would be as vivid a memory for people as 9/11, but still very clear.
No. It would be remembered, but not one-half as fondly or as often.
Finland had a good team, and before the Olympics, would have been heavily favored to beat the US. The game is considered anticlimactic in hindsight only because the US won.
Round-robin play was considered a more “pure” way to sort teams than elimination play. [There was also more round-robin and less elimination in the World Cup in that era, and only 4 out of 26 teams in the baseball playoffs.]
There were four teams in the medal round, but two pairs had already played each other in the divisional round, so those games carried over into the medal round. The US actually suffered because Sweden–the only team that had tied the US–advanced to the medal round. That carried the tie forward, which could have been killer if the Soviets had tied the US. Then it would be USSR 2-0-1; USA 1-0-2. (Assuming both teams beat Finland, as they did.) However . . . the Soviets, trailing by one, didn’t pull their goalie in the final minute of the US game. I don’t believe anybody has ever determined why not.
Not difficult. I watched it on tape without knowing the outcome. Hell, there were times when I didn’t find out the outcome of a sports event until the newspapers came out on the second following morning.
The US-Soviet game was the first of four medal-round games, and although the win was huge, it was not strictly definitive of anything. Pending results from all three of the other games, it was still mathematically possible for the US to finish anywhere in the group.
Oh yeah. I though you were asking how difficult was it NOT to learn the outcome.
The Sweden-Finland game I believe was the same night as US-USSR; it might have been right afterward. Finland won. At that point it was USA 1-0-1, USSR 1-1-0, Finland 1-1-0, Sweden 0-1-1. Beat or tie Finland, win gold. Lose to Finland, USSR wins gold due to tie-breaker over Finland, and boy would it have been a hollow victory for them. (Assuming a Soviet victory over Sweden in the final game, which was widely expected, and which happened.)
The mind-set going into the medal round was that Finland and the Soviet Union would probably defeat both Sweden and the United States. With Sweden and the US tied at 0-2-1, and having tied each other, the bronze medal would come down to goal differential. Which in turn could come down do, who got thwacked by the Soviet Union worse?
So the mind set was, “If our plucky boys can just hold down the score against the mighty Russians, they’ll have a chance for a bronze medal, which would be a hell of an accomplishment!”