Miracle Monday: USA vs. USSR Exhibition

Miracle Monday

Hello there, ladies and germs, and welcome back for another Miracle Monday!

Just speaking from my own personal experience, I always enjoy watching a sport more when I know a little bit about the athletes. When I care about the person behind the number, I'm much more invested in his/her success. So now that I'm done introducing you all to the full roster of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, we can take a tour through the final eight games they played together! Beforehand, hearing that, say, Neal Broten scored a goal might not've meant anything to you. But now it should be much more exciting, since now you know he looked and sounded like a 12-year-old little nugget. :)

So, moving forward! This first game we've got here is the final game of the team's exhibition schedule, just a few days before its first Olympic contest: against the Soviet Union at Madison Square Garden in New York City. This baby was featured briefly (but memorably) in Miracle, as it was both a crushing loss and where Jack O'Callahan injured his knee. So hey, yeah, this is a fun one. And by "fun" I mean... well, just keep reading.

1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team vs. USSR exhibition game Madison Square Garden


What: USSR 10 - 3 USA

Who: Mike Eruzione (assist: Steve Christoff)
        Phil Verchota (assists: Mark Pavelich, Ken Morrow)
        Steve Christoff (assists: Dave Silk, Mark Johnson)


+ Jim Craig makes his first save approximately 17 seconds into the game, if that gives you any indication as to how this is going to go. Jim made a lot of good saves, actually. Things eventually went south (um, obviously, look at the final score), but most of the goals Jim gave up were ones he really couldn't do much about.

+ Sticking with our goaltenders for a second... in Miracle, Herb makes a really big deal about how Jim let in 10 goals. But actually, halfway through the game Jim was taken out and Steve Janaszak got to play, so only about half of those goals were on Jim's conscience. Herb had planned this switch in advance, in order to keep Jim's abilities a bit of a secret from the Soviets, as well as to keep him from getting mentally bogged down in whatever went on in that game, and also as one final mental game with his starting goalie (that much Miracle did get right!). And it's probably not the most shining example of Janny's goaltending (again, just look at the final score), but it's great to actually get to see him play!

+ Leave it to the Coneheads (Mark Pavelich, John Harrington and Buzz Schneider) to have the first legitimate scoring opportunity for the Americans! :) Even when everything kind of sucks, those three could always manage to get something going. Herb put them into games to act as an offensive spark when nothing was really happening, and it's easy to see why.

+ Mike Eruzione's goal is eerily similar to his eventual game-winner in the Olympic rematch; same shot off the wrong foot, same use of a defenseman as a screen. At the time the goal was scored, that obviously meant nothing, but in hindsight it's kind of prophetic!

+ The beginning of the third period was a little glimmer of hope; the Soviets still dominated play but there was no scoring for a good while (and Phil Verchota scored for the Americans!), so it looked like the U.S. might've finally gotten things together a little bit. But then the Soviets scored several picture-perfect goals, and another couple of goals within a handful of seconds of each other, and things kind of unraveled. Mercifully Steve Christoff scored so things weren't completely awful in the second half of the period... but the Soviets scored again before the goal announcement was even over. And to add insult to injury, with only about a minute left, Phil and Eric Strobel slammed into each other and play had to be stopped as they got slowly to their feet. They were both fine, but the game really couldn't have ended on a worse note.


The full game is on YouTube HERE. There's no commentary, no commercials, no graphics... literally nothing. It must be some internal feed from Madison Square Garden or something like that. So in addition to the lackluster hockey, it's a bit of a struggle to follow. But it IS possible!

It took me being a fan of this team for a year and a half before I worked up the courage to watch this game. Hopefully seeing it in words is a little less painful! :)

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  1. I really need to 1. show my Dad this because he is OBSESSED with hockey and 2. get back on my Fab Four Friday series! Ugh I'm such a slacker!

  2. its very hopeful post on USSR Exhibition and i think important post for us.

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