Sunday, February 22, 2009

This week in Television History: The "Miracle on Ice" February 22nd, 1980

As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.

I had Sherman set the WABAC machine to February 22, 1980 when the U.S. men's ice hockey team, led by coach Herb Brooks, defeated the Soviet Union team, 4 - 3. The event was forever known as the "Miracle on Ice". The Soviet Union team, who were considered to be the best international hockey team in the world, they entered the Olympic tournament as heavy favorites, having won every ice hockey gold medal since 1964, and all but one gold medal since 1956. On February 9th, the American and Soviet teams met for an exhibition match at Madison Square Garden in order to practice for the upcoming competition. The Soviet Union won (10-3) so the odds were in favor of the Russians. The day before the match, columnist Dave Anderson wrote in the New York Times, "Unless the ice melts, or unless the United States team or another team performs a miracle, as did the American squad in 1960, the Russians are expected to easily win the Olympic gold medal for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments". The game ended with Al Michaels delivering the most famous call in Hockey history, "Eleven seconds, you've got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk...five seconds left in the game... Do you believe in miracles? YES!!!"

Two days later on February 24th, 1980 the U.S. Hockey Team won its "Do you believe in miracles?" gold medal during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games beating Finland (4-2) in their final medal round game. The Soviet Union took the Silver Medal by beating Sweden in their final game. Sweden took home the Bronze Medal, with Finland finishing fourth.

On a personal note February 24th 1980 was the day my baby sister Laura was born. I mention this here because people her age and younger don’t truly appreciate the historical significance of these event and what was happening in the world at that time.

  • Though the Olympic Games are supposed to be an arena free of politics the Soviet and American teams were long time rivals due to the Cold War.
  • President Jimmy Carter was considering a U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics, to be held in Moscow out of protest to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. President Carter eventually confirmed the boycott on March 21, 1980.
  • At the same time there was another international drama playing out. Despite President Carter’s initial refusal to admit the Shah of Iran into the United States, on October 22, 1979, he finally granted the Shah entry and temporary asylum for the duration of his cancer treatment. In response to the Shah's entry into the U.S., Iranian militants seized the American embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981.

The "Miracle on Ice" was a shot in the country’s morale during a time of great uncertainty.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was February 22nd, 1980.

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
Photo of Tony with baby sister Laura

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Contrary to popular legend, the "Miracle On Ice" game against Russia (on the East Coast) aired on ABC via a three-and-a-half hour delay (8:30-11 P.M. EST) instead of live (5-7:30 P.M. EST).

Supposedely, the late ABC anchor Frank Reynolds ranted and raved when the network briefly considered live coverage of the game, which would have shrunk his newscast to ten minutes between the second and third periods.

That, plus affilate resistance (they didn't want to give-up their cash-cow early-evening local newscasts), precluded a live TV broadcast in the United States (unless you lived close ebnough to the border to get Canadian TV, which did carry the game live).

The final game against Finland, as far as I can tell, did air live across the "lower 48", even though it began on a Sunday morning at 11:05 A.M. EST (8:05 PST).