The “Miracle on Ice” refers to a medal-round game during the men’s ice hockey tournament at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, played between the hosting United States, and the defending gold medalists, the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union had won the gold medal in six of the seven previous Winter Olympic Games, and were the favorites to win once more in Lake Placid. The team consisted primarily of professional players with significant experience in international play. By contrast, the United States’ team—led by head coach Herb Brooks—consisted exclusively of amateur players, and was the youngest team in the tournament and in U.S. national team history. In the group stage, both the Soviet and U.S. teams were undefeated; the U.S. achieved several notable victories, including a 2–2 draw against Sweden, and a 7–3 upset victory over second-place favorites Czechoslovakia.
For the first game in the medal round, the United States played the Soviets. Finishing the first period tied at 2–2, and the Soviets leading 3-2 following the second, the U.S. team scored two more goals to take their first lead during the third and final period, winning the game 4-3 in a major upset against the Cold War rival. Following the game, the U.S. went on to clinch the gold medal by beating Finland in their final match of the tournament. Likewise, the Soviet Union took the silver medal by beating Sweden.
The victory became one of the most iconic moments of the Games and in U.S. sports. Equally well-known was the television call of the final seconds of the game by Al Michaels for ABC, in which he famously declared in the final seconds, “Do you believe in miracles?! Yes!” In 1999, Sports Illustrated named the “Miracle on Ice” the top sports moment of the 20th century. As part of its centennial celebration in 2008, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) named the “Miracle on Ice” as the best international ice hockey story of the past 100 years.