Top 10 Memorabilia from the Miracle on Ice
It's been voted the greatest game in the history of ice hockey, and the top sporting moment of the 20th century. Thirty five years on, the 'Miracle on Ice' game between the USA and the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics remains a 'where were you?' moment for generations of fans.
The game is one of the greatest sporting underdog stories ever told. Nobody gave the US team a chance, and the Soviets were seeking their fifth consecutive Olympic gold in the event. To add to the occasion, the rivalry went far beyond the world of sport as the two nations were also bitter political enemies in the midst of the Cold War.
In 1980 the Soviet team was expected to sweep everyone aside. They had the world's best and most experienced players (many hardened by active military service), a strong league and an even stronger track record. During warm up games prior the tournament they were scoring for fun, trouncing the NHL All-Stars 6–0 and generally bullying anyone who stepped onto the ice with them.
In contrast, the US team was just a bunch of kids. Literally. With an average age of just 21 they weren't just the youngest in the entire tournament, they were the youngest Olympic team in American history.
At the time almost every leading NHL player was Canadian, so the U.S Olympic coach Herb Brooks was forced to hold tryouts. He cobbled together a team of amateurs and college players, many with promising talent but virtually no big-game experience behind them.
Then on February 9, just four days before the games were due to begin, the two teams met in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden. The Soviet team crushed the USA 10-3, and almost nobody was surprised.
As the qualifying round began, the Soviets immediately started steamrollering the teams around them. They defeated Japan 16–0, the Netherlands 17–4, Poland 8–1, Finland 4–2 and Canada 6–4, with only the final two games offering any kind of true test.
However, the USA surprised everyone with a series of strong performances that few had seen coming. After earning a last-minute 2-2 draw with Sweden, they went on to defeat Czechoslovakia, Norway, Romania and West Germany on their way to the medal round.
The on Friday February 22 the two bitter foes met at the Olympic Arena, in a game to decide who would compete for the gold medal.
"Unless the ice melts, or unless the United States team or another team performs a miracle…the Russians are expected to easily win the Olympic gold medal for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments," wrote New York Times columnist Dave Anderson prior to the game. Not many people disagreed with him, apart from maybe Herb Brooks.
The match-up proved far closer than anyone had expected. By the end of the second period the Soviet team was leading by just 3-2, but an amazing three minutes during the third and final period saw first Mark Johnson and then Mike Eruzione score to put the US team 4-3 up.
Everyone was in disbelief. For the Soviets team and coaches this was a nightmare, but the thousands of fans in the stadium and the millions watching across America were in absolute dreamland.
A frantic final 10 minutes aw the Soviets bombard the US goal, but to no avail. As the clock ticked down agonizingly slowly, ABC sportscaster Al Michaels gave perhaps the most famous commentary in US TV history:
"…11 seconds, you've got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles?! YES!!!"
The crowds went insane, Herb Brooks wept with joy, and a group of 19 American players became legends in their own lifetimes.
Decades later, the victory against the Soviets often overshadows the fact that the US team still had to beat Finland to win Olympic gold. They did so, again clawing their way back from behind 2-1 down with three third period goals to win 4-3.
To this day, the Miracle on Ice is remembered as one of the pinnacles of sporting achievement in American history. Memorabilia from the game is amongst the most highly sought-after by sports collectors, and can easily sell for incredible six-figure sums at auction.
Here's a list of ten of the most valuable pieces of Miracle on Ice hockey memorabilia ever sold.
The Olympic gold medal ring presented to forward Mark Pavelich sold at Heritage in July 2014 for $35,850.
The stick used by Rob McClanahan to score the winning goal against Finland, sealing victory in the gold medal game, sold at Heritage for $38,837 in May 2013.
Mike Eruzione's game-worn gloves, used throughout the Olympic tournament including the games against the Soviet Union and Finland, sold at Heritage in February 2013 for £53,775.
Forward John Harrington's game-worn USA jersey from the 'Miracle' match sold at Heritage for $71,700 in November 2014.
Forward Phil Verchota's game-worn USA jersey from the 'Miracle' game sold at Heritage in November 2014 for $119,500.
The 1980 Olympic Ice Hockey gold medal awarded to Mark Pavelich sold at Heritage in May 2014 for $262,900.
The stick used by Mike Eruzione to score the winning goal, described as "the greatest goal in American sports history", sold at Heritage in February 2013 for $262,900.
Mike Eruzione's game-worn USA jersey from the gold medal game against Finland sold at Heritage for $286,800 in February 2013.
The 1980 Olympic Ice Hockey gold medal presented to forward Mark Wells sold at Heritage in May 2014 for $310,700.
Mike Eruzione's 'Miracle' game-worn USA jersey sold at Heritage in February 2013 for $657,250.
(All images: Heritage Auctions)
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