This is what the late coach Herb Brooks told his charges, the U.S. Hockey Team at the 1980 Winter Olympics. February 22, 1980; 30 years ago today. The depth of the Cold War; we were locked in an existential struggle with what Ronald Reagan would later accurately label “the Evil Empire.” And here was our amateur hockey team, going head-to-head with the Soviet team that had beaten three NHL clubs.
The Soviets were pros in all but name (this was before NHL players were allowed to compete), and devilishly good. Our team was comprised of college guys, mostly, with some minor leaguers like Mike Eruzione. And since all our guys had to be U.S. citizens, that precluded a large majority of the best collegiate (and pro) hockey players, who were Canadians.
Dim prospects, indeed. And yet, and yet. We beat the Soviets to advance to the gold medal round, then beat Finland for the gold. It was a glorious time to be an American; a unique moment in sports that likely will never be repeated.
Heart, guts, and skill. Congratulations to coach Herb Brooks, Mike Eruzione, and the rest of our 1980 hockey team. Job well done.