ST. LOUIS – “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” Al Michaels delivered this iconic call 43 years ago Wednesday for a pivotal moment in not just hockey lore, but American history too.
The United States pulled off a rare upset against the Soviet Union, 4-3, in the medal round of the 1980 Winter Olympics, a game later dubbed the “Miracle on Ice.” It snapped a streak of four consecutive Gold Medal seasons from the Soviet Union, who became a hockey empire known as the “Red Army.”
Unlike many Olympic rosters, the Soviet Union recruited amateur players who were primarily full-time athletes. Hockey was one avenue through which the Soviet Union reigned supreme at the height of the Cold War, an era when tensions with the United States and others were high. The U.S. victory preceded a series of developments through which international relations eventually spurred the end of the Cold War.
The Herb Brooks-led U.S. squad, consisting primarily of non-amateur, college-level players, defeated Russia in the semifinal and Finland in the championship for a Gold Medal. The team spent nearly a year preparing for the 1980 Olympic run, competing in 61 pre-Olympic games.
Along the way, one exhibition match in September 1979 led the U.S. hockey team to facing the St. Louis Blues. Played at a neutral site in Iowa, the Blues cruised past the U.S. team, 9-1. That was the second of four Pre-Olympic games against NHL squads, and though the U.S. didn’t win any of those, the team picked up on some strategies and the intensity needed to take down the “Red Army.”
After the 1980s run, three members from the Miracle on Ice team went on to play for the St. Louis Blues.
- Forward Mark Johnson led the U.S. hockey team in scoring in Olympic contests with 5 goals and 6 assists over 7 games. He played 10 NHL seasons after that, including one lone run with the Blues in the 1984-85 seasons. He only played 17 games for the Blues due to a rib injury.
- Forward Dave Christian dished a valuable assist on an equalizer and buzzer-beating goal in the first period of the “Miracle On Ice” game. He led ths U.S. with eight assists in Olympic play. Christian also played just one season for the Blues and picked up 44 poiunts in 78 games from 1991-92.
- Defenseman Bill Baker had one goal during the U.S. Olympic run, but played stout defense on an offensive-minded squad. Shortly after the remarkable run, he joined the Blues for the 1981-82 season and logged 8 points and 50 penalty minutes over 35 games. His career was shortened due to injuries.
There’s one more major St. Louis Blues connection with the “Miracle on Ice” team. Assistant coach Craig Patrick, played 43 games with the Blues during the 1974-75 season. The Blues were one of four franchises he dressed for in his NHL career, which ended in 1978 just before the U.S. team’s formation. Patrick has spent many years since in front office roles with the Pittsburgh Penguins, leading to multiple Stanley Cup championships.