I was 9 years old when 1980 USA vs. USSR hockey game happened, but I can’t recall the moment as it played out in real time. What I do remember was being a kid who lived in fear that the USA and Soviet Union were going to start World War III. The Cold War felt so real to me, and I think a lot of kids from my generation would agree that it felt so heavy when those two teams took the ice. It was personal for us, and that’s why I consider the miracle on ice game to be one of the greatest moments in sport.
My family has been a huge Olympics fan from the beginning, well before my swimming career. My mom loved them, but my dad LIVED for them and he remembers every moment of that game (even though he often can’t remember how old I am on my birthday). Patriotism is a huge part of his DNA. When the USA clinched gold on that Sunday beating Finland (many forget that huge win over the Soviets was in the first medal round), my dad raised his arm during church and cheered. (He’d snuck in a transistor radio). That’s when the pastor asked him to share what had just happened, and he said, “Team USA Hockey won for everyone.” In that moment, the Cold War became a bit less scary and that miracle made us all feel so proud to be American.
So when looking at the Olympic schedule, I — like everyone else here working these Games — zeroed in on one game in particular: USA vs. Russia, Feb 15 at 4:30 p.m. Our world has changed in a big way since 1980. The Cold War has ended and the USSR has become Russia, but the history is still there and playing a powerhouse in their home country I knew would be a huge moment. But the biggest fact is I wanted to be there, to see it and share the experience with everyone in my family that loves the Olympic Games so very much, especially my dad.
I took my cameraman, who grew up on hockey Philly style. It was a big moment for us all. Our seats were in the very top row on the players’ side of the ice, but they were the best seats in the house cause we were IN the building. The crowd was mostly Russian, but it was a beautiful blend of red, white and shades of blue. We are cheering for our team, but we are also cheering for this moment. And then there was the game! Only my third hockey game ever, and oh what a game it was to witness. Fast, furious and full of passion. I think even the players knew what they were a part of, it just went so far beyond the ice. I had a chance to talk to Ryan Suter after the team’s first game against Slovakia and asked him about the ’80 hockey team. He has a direct connection to the game, as his dad, Bob Suter, was a defenseman on that team. So what was it like growing up with the “miracle” legend? He said he didn’t know about it until his elementary school teachers asked to see his dad’s medal. But he knows now. I started to ask if he and the team were going to watch the movie or documentary before the big game, but he anticipated my question with a smile. He wasn’t sure. I wonder if they did. Regardless, after 3 periods and 8 shoot outs, they wrote their own story. It was brilliant to say the least. TJ Oshie is the man! I know I only know a little about hockey, but the idea of one guy taking 6 out of 8 of the shot is freaking unbelievable. It was a crazy awesome sports moment, and all I can keep thinking is, “I WAS THERE!” What an honor to be a part of it. When I met fellow broadcaster Dan Patrick in the halls of the IBC today, the first thing we talked about was the shootout. Each of us was there to witness it, and we both held onto out tickets. You know it was special when someone who often covers the best sporting events in the world takes home a memento.
There are many more games to play on the men’s ice hockey schedule here in Sochi, and it’s possible that the Russians and Americans could meet again. But the shootout was special. And my miracle moment was standing up in the top row of the Bolshoy Ice Dome chanting USA, taking in the pure joy of the game and the beautiful patriotism the way my dad did 34 years ago on Friday, Feb. 22, 1980.