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Miracles and memories: Top Olympic hockey moments

Miracle on Ice

The Soviets had won gold medals in 1964, 1968, 1972 and 1976 and were heavy favorites to win again in 1980. Playing against NHL teams, the Soviets went 5-3-1 and beat the NHL All-Stars 6-0 in 1979. Just days before the Olympic tournament started, the USSR routed the Americans 10-3 in an exhibition at Madison Square Garden.

But sparked by coach Herb Brooks' "You were born to be here" speech, the Americans hung tough against the Soviets and trailed 3-2 heading to the third period. They tied the score at 8:39 of the period. Captain Mike Eruzione scored the winner with exactly 10 minutes left. The clock ticked down with Ken Morrow and Dave Silk clearing the puck, and the 4-3 victory ended with the famous call of ABC announcer Al Michaels:

"Eleven seconds, you've got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"

The Forgotten Miracle

The 1980 team wasn't the first to win a gold medal for the United States. In fact, this year, some are celebrating the 50th anniversary of what has become known as the "Forgotten Miracle." The 1960 Olympics were held on American soil, in Squaw Valley, Calif. The U.S. team was picked to finish no better than fifth and well behind powerhouses Canada and the USSR. The Americans scored one-goal victories against Canada and the USSR then faced Czechoslovakia. In the game that cemented the gold medal, the Americans crushed the Czechs 9-4 to become the first and, still, only American hockey team to go undefeated and untied in an Olympic tournament.

The Anniversary Game

Exactly 22 years to the day of the Miracle on Ice, the United States and Russians met again in an Olympic tournament. It was the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, and once again, Herb Brooks was behind the American bench. Earlier in the 2002 tournament, the United States and Russia, which was coached by 1980 Soviet star Slava Fetisov, skated to a thrilling 2-2 tie. Then on the anniversary of their historic 1980 game, the Americans won again. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two periods then watched as the Russians stormed back with two goals. The Americans held on and advanced to the gold medal game with a 3-2 victory.

The Loonie Game

The 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic tournament featured a dream gold medal game with the United States taking on Canada in a matchup that featured a slew of NHL players who are in or headed to the Hall of Fame. The Canadians had Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic and goalie Martin Brodeur. The Americans had Jeremy Roenick, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and goalie Mike Richter. The Canadians scored two late goals to make the final 5-2, but the game was much closer than the score. After the game, it was discovered Canadian icemaker Trent Evans buried a Canadian loonie (coin) at center ice to bring good luck to the Canadians. It worked as Canada won its first gold medal in men's hockey since 1952.

The Shot

This might have been the second-biggest upset in Olympic hockey history behind the Miracle on Ice. In 2002, tiny Belarus was 0-3 in the Olympic tournament when it met powerhouse Sweden, which was 3-0 and looked to be the gold medal favorite. Belarus came into the quarterfinal game having been outscored 16-2 in its previous two games. But the teams were tied at 3 with 2:24 remaining when Vladimir Kopat took a 70-foot slap shot that somehow squirted past Swedish goalie Tommy Salo and gave the Belarussians a stunning 4-3 victory. "I don't understand how we could lose against this team," Swedish captain Mats Sundin said after the game. Back in Sweden, the country was in shock and the media mocked the Swedish players by publishing each one of their NHL salaries in the local newspapers.

The Shootout

In 1994, the most recent Olympics that did not feature NHL players, Sweden and Canada met in an epic gold medal game. Sweden tied the score at 2 late in regulation. And after a scoreless overtime, a shootout was held to determine the Olympic champion. After five rounds of the shootout, the score remained tied, and extra shots were required. Future NHL star Peter Forsberg scored in the seventh round to give Sweden a one-goal lead. Then another future NHL star, Paul Kariya of Canada, was stopped by goaltender Tommy Salo to give the Swedes the victory.

Check it out

"Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"

It is, perhaps, the most famous call in sports history. That's what Al Michaels said in the final seconds as the 1980 United States Olympic team upset the then-Soviet Union on Feb. 22, 1980. During today's afternoon Olympics coverage, which begins at noon, NBC will look back at that historic game and team in a special hosted by Michaels, who now works for NBC.

Last October, Michaels sat down with several players from that team, including captain Mike Eruzione and goalie Jim Craig, to talk not only about the game against the Soviets but the days and weeks leading up to that game. Among the topics of conversation is hard-nosed yet inspirational coach Herb Brooks, who died in 2003 from injuries sustained in a car accident.

In the piece, Eruzione said, "People always ask me if we could have won without Herb. I don't think we could have won without Herb, and I don't think he could have won without us. It was the perfect marriage of players and coaches."

And, of course, Michaels remembers his famous call.

"Sometimes in life, you get lucky," Michaels said. "You're in the right place at the right time."

Thirty years ago this week — Feb. 22, 1980 — was, arguably, the greatest upset in sports history … the greatest hockey game ever played … and, perhaps, the most famous sporting event of all time. The Miracle on Ice: The 1980 United States Olympic team, made up of a bunch of college kids, beat the then-Soviet Union, considered the best hockey team in the world, on a Friday evening in Lake Placid, N.Y. Two days later, the Americans beat Finland and captured the gold medal. So today, we celebrate the Miracle on Ice by looking back at the most memorable hockey games in Olympic tournament history.

Miracles and memories: Top Olympic hockey moments 02/20/10 [Last modified: Sunday, February 21, 2010 12:35pm]
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