Miracle On Ice

The obituary on legendary USSR ice hockey coach Viktor Tikhonov certainly stirs memories for many of the so-called “Miracle on Ice,” when the USA upset the USSR’s invincible hockey machine at Lake Placid in the 1980 Olympic Games. As this article points out, his string of successes simply boggles the mind, whether with the USSR or with his club team, equally legendary CKSA Moscow, the famed Central Army Sports Club. His only major loss was the ‘Miracle on Ice’ game.

Many think that US triumph was a one-time thing or a first-time thing. Not so. Just 12 years earlier, again on US ‘soil,’ the Americans pulled off a miracle, going through the Squaw Valley, California, Winter Olympics with a 7-0 record, including 5-0 in the championship round, the most important win being a 3-2 squeaker vs. the USSR. Other teams were favored to win the gold, such as Canada, Czechoslovakia and the USSR. This was the so-called ‘Forgotten Miracle,’ as it came before wall-to-wall TV coverage of the Winter Olympics, a monumental feat lost because it was not duly recorded.

Herb Brooks, who coached the USA to the 1980 gold medal at Lake Placid, was a reserve on the 1960 team and, as the piece says, was the last man cut from the squad. Of course, when you pull off a coup like this, there are many heroes. But the biggest of all in 1960 was John ‘Jack’ McCartan, the goalie, an All-American third-baseman for the University of Minnesota baseball team, who had helped the USA to a bronze medal in baseball in the 1959 Pan-Am Games. In the other key game, a 2-1 win over Canada, McCartan had 39 saves. Obviously, playing the ‘hot corner’ sharpened his reflexes.

. This was also a triumph of coaching, by the great John Mariucci. No doubt but what Herb Brooks followed his plan in 1980: two months of preparation; grueling practices; countless exhibition games on foreign ice. These were the days before the NHL could send its players to the Olympics. So, this was, basically, a college all-star team, with a boost or two from Armed Forces players. Well, for those of us that were around in 1960, this miracle is, most certainly, not forgotten.