7 Things You Don't Know About 1980 Olympic Hockey (But You Should)

As I mentioned briefly in a previous post, I am the proud owner of DVDs of the Lake Placid 1980 Olympic hockey tournament. (That's the Miracle team, in case there are any poor souls people following this blog that don't know that.) I don't even really know how I found these DVDs, because I sure wasn't looking for them. But whatever the circumstances were, I basically fell out of my chair when I realized what was in front of me. Now, I'm normally not one to happily shell out 50 bucks for... er, well, anything. But this was seven DVDs of games played by my favorite team in the world, games that I'm fairly certain don't exist online anywhere. So I counted down the days until payday, and made my purchase.

And guys, it's kind of the greatest purchase I've ever made. I totally understand why this team's entire history is boiled down to Mike Eruzione's game-winning goal against the Soviets and Jim Craig's brilliance in net, but damn. You kind of forget that there was a whole tournament leading up to that game and so, so many other heroes that played a role in that journey. Hell, I pride myself on knowing a ton about this team, and there were some things that made my jaw hit the floor.

So here we go. Prepare to be educated!

7 things you don't know about 1980 olympic hockey (but you should)

1. Bill Baker is a freaking hero. What Miracle showed happen during the game against Sweden is entirely true; the U.S. was down 2-1 and Bill Baker scored in the last minute of play to tie things up. But what the movie (and public knowledge) kind of glosses over is the fact that if Bill didn't score that goal, things would've looked very, very different for the U.S. for the rest of the tournament. That goal gave the team a ton of momentum and a little bit of a cushion. Had they lost, every game would've been a must-win. Could they have performed as well under that kind of pressure? Could they have rebounded after a loss? Well, thankfully they didn't have to find out because of Bill's goal, as the commentators reminded viewers at least once in every. single. subsequent. game. It felt like every time Bill touched the puck his prior heroics were mentioned, actually using the word "heroics" more often than not. Not sure how this got lost in the shuffle of history! And then, in the following game, he got hit in the neck/mouth area with a shot on goal. He was down on the ice for awhile, but didn't miss a shift. You go, Billy!

Bill Baker

2. Ken Morrow is the guy you want on your team. He's not the guy that was making the flashiest plays, or the guy that was lighting up the stat sheets. But Ken Morrow was always in position, always where he was needed, and always executed solidly. I'm far from a hockey expert so I can't really explain what I'm talking about, but watching these games I feel safe whenever the puck is on Ken's stick. He also apparently separated his shoulder during the game against Czechoslovakia. I didn't notice anything happen, and only knew he was hurt when Al Michaels said something during the following game, in which Ken played his normal amount of time. How the heck do you separate your shoulder without drawing attention to it and then miss zero ice time?! Jeez. I mean, after the Olympics he went straight to the New York Islanders and won three straight Stanley Cups, so clearly he was doing something very, very right.

Ken Morrow
3. Two words: Mark Pavelich. It's no secret that Pav holds a special place in my heart, but it's not even my bias speaking when I say HOLY COW could that boy play! He was always in the right place at the right time to poke the puck away from the opponent and shovel it across the crease to an open teammate, and if he wasn't, he'd just casually catch up to whoever had it. Seriously, Pav was crazy fast, and his passes were like works of art. You don't have to know a thing about him to know that he spent more time in skates growing up than he did in shoes; his hockey instincts are freaking ridiculous. It's so much fun to watch him play. You know something exciting is going to happen when Pav is on the ice.

Mark Pavelich
4. Mike Eruzione is more than that one goal. Let's talk about the captain for a sec, shall we? In Miracle and in the media, it's pretty well focused-on that Rizzo was far from the best player on the team. Herb Brooks actually almost cut him several weeks before the Olympics. Somehow, in my mind at least, this turned into thinking that his game-winning goal against the Soviets was his only scoring contribution at the Olympics (that would've been a helluva story!). But he actually scored several times during round robin play, including the first goal of the 7-3 win over Czechoslovakia. Color me surprised!

Mike Eruzione
5. Mark Johnson is more than those five goals. I've raved about Mark Johnson's hockey wizardry in the past, but a little context makes a huge difference. Mark scored five goals at the Olympics, three of which came in the two games of the medal round. So that means that he only scored twice in the first five games, and in watching them I was wondering where the Magic I'd known had disappeared to. But when you think about it... he was on the ice for penalty kills. He was on the ice for power plays. Herb liked him to play for 40% of games, nearly had a (well-televised) conniption when Mark was injured against the Czechs, and told Al Michaels that, "Mark Johnson makes this team go." If I had to guess, I'd say Mark's intangibles were almost as valuable as all those points he accumulated.

Mark Johnson
6. ...And so is Buzz Schneider. On the complete flip side of Mark, my main man Buzz scored four of his five goals in round robin play and only one in the medal round. So those first five games basically belonged to Buzz. Imagine my sheer delight when, time after time, Buzz scored a goal with Pav credited for the assist! I love me that Conehead line. :) As a line (those two and Bah Harrington) they were the highest scoring on the team, and it honestly looked like they'd played on a line together for their entire lives. They were so in sync, like they knew where the others would be before they got there. So what they may have lacked in pure technical talent they made up for in "...wait, how the HECK did they just make that play?!"

Buzz Schneider

7. About 90% of them looked like they were 15 years old.

1980 US Olympic hockey team
How? HOW?!?
 That's right: a bunch of adorable little boys are behind America's greatest Olympic moment ever.

Venus Trapped in Mars

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  1. The fact that you weren't even born in 1980, I'm so impressed that you know all this info!!

  2. Love this blog post, Darci! All your reasons are so great.

    Bill Baker was a hero with his clutch goal that gave the US momentum going into their match against the Czechs, and took off that pressure of every game being a must-win for team survival. Like you, I don't know how that got lost to history when the commentators brought it up every time Bill touched the puck or looked like he was going to touch it. I guess maybe he was just too modest so people ended up forgetting about his heroics.

    Ken Morrow is a great d-man, and it's hard to argue with the three Stanley Cups and Olympic Gold Medal. (That's some serious hardware there.) I always wish that he hadn't been plagued by injuries in his pro career. I think he could have been Hockey Hall of Fame material, since so many of his contemporaries raved about his hockey sense, and his brief time in the NHL gave him three Stanley Cups. Pretty dang amazing.

    Pav was an awesome offensive catalyst in the Olympics. He was always making something happen with those assists. He just makes hockey look so fun and free:D And Buzz was a great scorer so together they were double the awesome.

    Mark Johnson was epic in the medal round. Two goals against the Soviets and the last goal against the Finns, but he was still great to watch in the pool games even if he only scored twice. He just played so smart whether he was on the power play or on the penalty kill, and I don't know I kind of digged seeing him get into a scuffle in the West German game. It's always neat when guys who don't fight much get physical.

    Rizzo does deserve credit for more than that goal against the Soviets. His goal kick-started that American route of the Czechs, so he totally deserves recognition for that.

    And, yeah, most of the boys look like freshman in high school. So hard to believe that the average age for the team was 21 when they look like the average age should have been 16, lol. Crazy and adorable.

  3. Terrific post. The 1980 USA Hockey team is probably my GOAT (greatest of all time for the uninformed...) I WAS alive when they played (2nd grade) and I can still remember watching the game with my dad and going crazy when the beat the Russians. I HAVE to get my hands on that DVD. So cool...