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The greatest upset in sports history, 40 years later

| Monday, February 24, 2020

Feb. 22, 1980. Ask your parents where they were when that group of college kids took on the Soviet Union powerhouse hockey team and shocked the world by winning that game and then eventually the gold medal. I’ve asked my dad, and I was treated to an excellent story of him faking sickness with his friend who backed up his story to get out of a mandatory meeting and go watch the game. So, two days after the 40-year anniversary of the greatest upset in sports, I’m watching the movie again, and recounting the best moments from Miracle, the best sports movie covering the 1980 USA hockey team — the best underdog story of all time.

“A lot of kids from Boston and Minnesota”

It’s one of my favorite underrated quotes from the movie. Prior to the tryouts, we see two future team members — Jack O’Callahan and Jimmy Craig — talking in front of the tryout list. O’Callahan asks Craig what he thinks of the list of players, to which Craig says “A lot of kids from Boston and Minnesota.” Growing up in an age of travel hockey, it’s an excellent throwback to the age of college hockey as it was born, with a bunch of kids from Boston and Minnesota dominating the game. It’s a small quote, but it’s a fun reminder of where the talent came from back in the ‘80s. 

Mike Eruzione, Winthrop Massachusetts, Team USA

There is no doubt that Eruzione, the kid that nobody thought would make the team, is the epitome of this underdog team. And while there are a lot of moments, including the game-winning goal against the Soviets, this is one of the best moments in the movie. As the team skates through an ungodly number of suicides after a lackluster effort in their exhibition, Eruzione shouts out his name into the dark arena: “Mike Eruzione, Winthrop, Massachusetts.” The tension in the scene builds, and coach Herb Brooks asks who he plays for, to which Eruzione yells, “I play for the United States of America.” I can’t watch the scene without getting chills, and it’s an incredibly well-done scene that seemingly serves as the turning point in the movie as the team starts to improve both in effort and team chemistry. 

“You want me to play on one leg, I’LL PLAY ON ONE LEG”

Down 1-0 after one period versus Sweden, Brooks enters the locker room and launches into a tirade about how his team is acting like they’re playing in a ‘throwaway game,’ at which point he turns his attention to Rob McClanahan, who was injured in the first period. He fires off one of my favorite quotes, “A bruise on the leg is a long way from the heart,” following the quote by calling McClanahan a name I can’t put in print. McClahanan jumps up and screams “You want me to play on one leg, I’ll play on one leg.” He hops towards Brooks only to be restrained by his teammates. In a story full of gritty underdogs, this is one of the grittiest scenes in the movie. McClanahan comes back into the game and helps USA earn a draw with Sweden. 

“Their time is over, this is our time”

In easily my favorite pregame speech ever, Herb Brooks delivers a passionate talk ahead of his team’s game versus the Soviets. They had lost 10-3 just weeks earlier, but even just a few games later, the team feels different. I can recount large portions of this speech from memory. If you’re a sports fan, you simply cannot dislike this scene. I can’t do it justice. Go look it up on Youtube. 

“Do you believe in miracles”

There’s no chance that Al Michaels’ legendary call was going to escape this list. As the clock ticks down, USA makes one final clear, and Michaels shouts in pure elation, “Do you believe in miracles?!” What makes every great moment in sports is a great broadcaster and a signature call, and Al Michaels provides exactly that, providing the perfect ending to this movie. 

There are plenty of other moments, but I only have about 700-800 words to work with so instead of taking my word for it, go ahead and delay your next assignment or task on your to-do-list (you were probably going to do that anyways) and watch the movie. It’s worth your time.

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About Aidan Thomas

A junior marketing and ACMS major at Notre Dame, I've countered the success I've enjoyed as a New England sports fan with the painful existence of a Notre Dame football fan.

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