'Miracle' Grows, 25 Years Later

Thursday marks the 25th anniversary of one of the greatest achievements in American sports: a young, inexperienced U.S. Olympic hockey team won the gold in Lake Placid, N.Y.

A 4-2 defeat of Sweden captured the top medal for the U.S. But it was the stirring, shocking victory two days earlier over a much more experienced, mighty Soviet team that galvanized, and won the heart of a nation in the thick of the Cold War. The U.S. even came from behind to do it.

A quarter century later, America still remembers and loves them.

Members of the team that taught the nation to believe in miracles have ventured back to Lake Placid to mark the anniversary.

The team was made up mostly of college players who everyone believed didn't have a chance against the seasoned Soviets.

But it wasn't just the game that made the victory so sweet. It was the also the timing.

The Soviets had recently invaded Afghanistan. In the U.S., a shortage of gasoline had caused long lines at the pump, inflation had reached 18 percent, and the economy was suffering.

And only three months prior to the Olympics, Iranian militants took nearly 70 Americans hostage, sparking a crisis that would last 444 days.

With the Cold War as the backdrop, Americans focused on the Olympic semifinals against the Soviets. At a time of doubt, the astounding victory helped reaffirm America's faith in itself.

Team captain Mike Eruzione and teammates Ken Morrow and Dave Christian joined co-anchor Hannah Storm on The Early Show Thursday to reflect on what happened then and what's happened since.

Later Thursday, the ice arena will be re-named after their late coach, Herb Brooks.

Eruzione told Storm, "There's no doubt I thought we could win (against the Soviets). As an athlete, if you don't think you can win, you're probably not gonna win. But going into the game that night, the night before, that day in practice, Herb kept preaching to us that '(The Soviets are) ripe, they're ready to be beaten. If anyone can beat them, it's you guys.'

"Let's be realistic, we knew it would be difficult. But as a team, we felt if we played our game, if we kept the game close, then anything could happen as the game progressed. We never got behind by more than a goal. So we were able to overcome whatever challenges" came our way.

"At this point," Christian says, "25 years later, it just seems to get bigger and grow as the years go by, and there's a whole new generation now that's learning about the story, and it's amazing how big it's gotten and that it just continues to go on."

Morrow agrees: "It feels great. We were out on the Olympic oval yesterday skating, and you have all these parents coming up, people that had watched the game, telling us what an experience it was for them. And then you have their kids who they're relaying the message to. These kids have seen the movie ("Miracle"), and they're hearing it from their parents. So it's carrying on from generation to generation now."

Eruzione couldn't concur more: "I look at the e-mails I get and letters I get from young kids who told me they either saw movie or their mother, father, grandfather or grandmother told them about the hockey team, and they want to know more about it."

  • Brian Dakss

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