Miracle on Ice

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Miracle On Ice: The Legacy
America's 1980 Olympic hockey team looms large in the sporting imagination. History has framed the Miracle On Ice as one of those rare sporting achievements that transcend sport. The two hockey games that comprise the “miracle” – the 4-3 win over the mighty Soviets and the 4-2 gold medal clincher against Finland – are credited with lifting Americans from a decade of gloom and despair, reviving patriotism and foreshadowing a national renewal. In 1980, the United States was emerging from a troubled decade. The 1970s had been marked by an ugly end to the Vietnam War, the demoralizing Watergate spectacle, rampant inflation, unemployment and an energy crisis. The Soviets had just invaded Afghanistan, rejuvenating the Cold War. As the Lake Placid Olympics opened, 52 Americans were held hostage in Iran, their nation seemingly helpless against a gang of student radicals. The line commonly associated with the Miracle On Ice is, “it gave the country a reason to feel good again.” Could all this be media spin, a storyline conjured by reporters swept up in the moment and pundits trying to squeeze great meaning from an isolated event? To some extent, perhaps. But there is no doubt that Americans were touched deeply by a hockey team as never before. Following the victory over the Soviets, one woman told Sports Illustrated she had never seen so many American flags since the sixties, “And we were burning them then.” In the weeks to follow, the players received bags of mail. To this day, they hear stories that begin, “I remember where I was when…” The team captain, Mike Eruzione, remains in demand on the after-dinner speaking circuit. Whatever it’s role in the larger cultural context, one thing is beyond dispute: the Miracle On Ice raised the profile of American hockey, giving it an adrenalin shot that is still felt today. In 1980, there were 10,490 hockey teams in the United States. In 1990, the total was up to 14,969. Then the game really took off. By...
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