10 interesting facts you may not know about the Miracle on Ice
One of the great things about being a sportswriter is that every so often you get to live out the Super Bowl scene in the movie "Big." Remember that scene?
And Billy goes: "You're the luckiest guy I know."
Well, now and then, that happens in a sportswriter's life. I did
Watching that game (more than once) was incredible. And it inspired me to write up 10 things you may or may not know about the Miracle on Ice. You probably know most of this stuff. But it's fun just to remember.
10. The game was not broadcast live. Well, that's not exactly right... it was broadcast live on Canadian TV, so a few people up near the border saw it live. But most of the country -- almost all of the country, really -- saw it on tape delay, in prime time. The game had ended less than an hour before it was broadcast.
Funny, a lot of people still think they saw the game live. But I know that one of my strongest memories -- confirmed by the tape -- was of McKay saying that it was tape delay and that if even one person did not know the outcome, well, he wasn't going to be the one to break the news. I have seen polls through the years that suggested most of the people who watched the game on television did not know the outcome. I know that my father and I did not. That shows you how long ago 1980 was in terms of technology. There's no way you could keep that a secret now.
9. There was one celebrity in the crowd -- or at least only one celebrity that the ABC cameras showed. That was:
8. You may know that Michaels called the game with former Montreal Canadiens goalie
7. Michaels got the job as broadcaster of Olympic hockey because he was the only announcer in the ABC rotation who had ever called a hockey game. The interesting thing: He had called exactly one game. And that one game was the 1972 hockey game between the USSR and Czechoslovakia in Sapporo, Japan. He actually was working for NBC at the time. The Soviets won 5-2 and won gold. And the only reason Michaels called THAT game is because he grew up a hockey fan, and nobody else wanted to do it.
5. The U.S., famously, got a cheap goal with one second left in the first period, when the legendary
But it's interesting... until I saw the game again I did not realize how it happened. There was still one second left in the period, of course, and the Soviets had already headed to the locker room. They did not want to come back out for the pointless one-second face-off. But they had to come back, and eventually they sent out a shell team -- three players and a goalie. And the goalie was backup goalie
But sure enough, the second period started, and Vladimir Myshkin was in goal instead of Tretiak.
"I don't know what was the reason," Tretiak told me more than 20 years after the game. "It's a big secret. Ask my coach. I still don't know.
"It was like why me?" he says. "But in a good way."
3. The memory, of course, is of the U.S. crowd going absolutely crazy. You will hear people say that was one of the loudest buildings in the history of American sports. And, at the end, it definitively was loud. But the truth is that for most of the game the crowd was actually quite quiet. In fact, there's a moment in the third period where Michaels says: "Now, finally, the crowd comes alive."
"You have to understand," Michaels says, "until Johnson scores that tying goal in the third period, there really wasn't much to cheer about."
He's right. The second period was utterly dominated by the Soviets. The Soviets scored a goal early in the second period to make the score 3-2. And then they just peppered U.S. goalie
2. Michaels says that if he had thought up his famous line earlier -- "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" -- he never would have said it. The thing you have to understand about Michaels is that he's a pro's pro. Get the names right. Get the action right. Never jump the gun. Never say what you don't know. That's his blueprint. That's his life. And Michaels believes that if he had thought up the line earlier, he would have discarded it because in his head it would sound jingoistic or corny or both.
But he did not think up the line earlier... he was calling the game and the word "miraculous" popped into his head. That's what it was. Miraculous. The Soviets were the greatest hockey team on earth... better than NHL teams. The U.S. team was a bunch of college kids. This could not be happening. Miraculous. And as the puck came out with five seconds to go -- "How lucky was I that the puck came out," Michaels would say -- the words just came out of him.
Years later, Michaels would re-do the hockey commentary for the movie "Miracle." But when it came to that final, memorable line -- probably the most famous call in the history of American sports -- they used the original recording. "I couldn't do that line again," Michaels says. "No way."
1. This is in the Michaels-Costas story, but it's worth repeating here... Michaels did not just leave after the game was over. He called the Finland-Sweden hockey game. So while he, of course, understood just how big the U.S. victory had been, he was unaware of the nation's reaction, unaware of the way Americans had poured into the streets of Lake Placid. When he left the game, he saw all the people celebrating, all the waving flags, and he made it back to the hotel, and someone said to him: "Wow, that was incredible what you said." And for a second Michaels thought, "What did I say?"
It's interesting, Michaels says he never gets tired of people coming up to him to talk about that call or that game. He never tires of hearing people say where they were when they heard the call. I was in our TV room, my father was on the couch, my mother was out playing cards. I remember jumping up and down when Eruzione scored the game-winner... and I suspect that was the first hockey game I had watched, beginning to end, on television (I did go to a Cleveland Barons game once). Of course, it was the first hockey game that many Americans had seen.
"That was the beauty of that game," Michaels says. "You didn't have to understand to understand."