The "Miracle on Ice" is the name in American popular culture for a medal-round men's ice hockey game during the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New York, on Friday, February 22. The United States national team, made up of amateur and collegiate players and led by coach Herb Brooks, defeated the Soviet Union national team, which had won the gold medal in six of the seven previous Olympic games.
Team USA went on to win the gold medal by winning its last match over Finland. The Soviet Union took the silver medal by beating Sweden in its final game. In 1999, Sports Illustrated named the "Miracle on Ice" the Top Sports Moment of the 20th Century. As part of its 100th anniversary celebrations in 2008, the International Ice Hockey Feder-ation (IIHF) chose the "Miracle on Ice" as the century's number-one international ice hockey story.
The Soviet Union entered the Lake Placid games as the heavy favorite, having won the previous four ice hockey gold medals dating back to the 1964 games. In the four Olympics following their 1960 upset by Team USA at Squaw Valley, Soviet teams had gone 27–1–1 (wins-losses-ties) and outscored the opposition 175–44. In head-to-head match-ups against the United States, the cumulative score over that period was 28–7. The Soviet players, some of whom were active-duty military, played in a well-developed league with world-class training facilities. They were led by legendary players in world ice hockey, such as Boris Mikhailov (a top line right winger and team captain), Vladislav Tretiak (the consensus best goaltender in the world at the time), the speedy and skilled Valeri Kharlamov, as well as talented, young, and dynamic players such as defenseman Viacheslav Fetisov and forwards Vladimir Krutov and Sergei Makarov. From that team, Tretiak, Kharlamov, and Fetisov would eventually be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Many of the Soviet players had gained attention in the Summit Series eight years previous and, in contrast to the American players, were seasoned veterans with long histories of international play.
U.S. head coach Herb Brooks conducted tryouts in Colorado Springs in the summer of 1979. Of the 20 players who eventually made the final Olympic roster, Buzz Schneider was the only one returning from the 1976 Olympic team. Nine players had played under Brooks at the University of Minnesota, which included Rob McClanahan, Mike Ramsey, and Phil Verchota; while four more were from Boston University; Dave Silk, Jack O'Callahan, goalie Jim Craig, and team captain Mike Eruzione. Boston and Minnesota were perennial rivals in college hockey and the hostility carried over from some of the players on the Olympic team for the first few months. The average age of the U.S. team was 21 years old, making it the youngest team in U.S. team history to play in the Olympics and would be the youngest team in the Olympic tournament. Assistant coach Craig Patrick had played with Brooks on the 1967 U.S. national team.
The Soviet and American teams were natural rivals due to the decades-old Cold War. In addition, President Jimmy Carter was at the time considering a U.S. boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics, to be held in Moscow, in protest of the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. On February 9, the same day that the American and Soviet teams met in an exhibition game in New York City, U.S. Secretary of State Cyrus Vance denounced the impending Moscow games at a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). President Carter eventually decided in favor of the boycott.