Spirit of Victory


Spirit of Victory

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Spirit of Victory 
The American Victory Over The Soviet Union

This serigraph depicts one of the most thrilling sporting events in the history of America.

It was February 22, 1980, and all eyes were on the Olympic Winter Games at Lake Placid. At the height of the Cold War, the United States was to face up against the Soviet Union in the Hockey Semi-finals. It was a modern day David and Goliath. The American team, ranked 7th in the Top 12, was an ensemble of NHL hopefuls, amateur classed collegiate players. The Soviets, while also officially classed as amatuers, were essentially professional league players - not only heavily favored to win the game, but expected to take the gold for the USSR for the fifth consecutive time. In fact, the Soviets had won 8 of the last 9 Gold Medals in hockey.

On February 9, the two teams met for an exhibition match in order to practice for the upcoming competition. The Soviet Union dominated the Americans 10 to 3, and then went on to secure their position in the Olympic semi-finals by sweeping through Japan 16 to 0, the Netherlands 17 to 4, and Poland 8-1. The Soviets' Olympic winning streak was now 21 straight wins - they hadn't lost a hockey game since 1968.

The United States was emerging from a troubled decade, and with the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan rejuvinating the Cold War, tensions were never higher.The US was still reeling from the quagmire of the Vietnam War, and a demmoralizing Watergate spectacle - there was the embarrassing debacle that was the Iran hostage crisis, and with unemployment, an energy crisis, ballooning inflation, and crippling gas prices - Americans needed something to cheer about.

The home crowd at Lake Placid, reinforced by the Cold War "showdown" mentality, were in a patriotic fervor throughout the match, waving U.S. flags and singing patriotic songs at the top of their lungs. It was clear that this wasn't just a hockey match, and this certainly wasn't just another sporting event.

In the dressing room before the game, Coach Herb Brooks told his team, "The moment is yours."

As in several previous games, the U.S. team fell behind early. Vladimir Krutov deflected a slap shot by Aleksei Kasatonov and past U.S. goaltender Jim Craig to give the Soviets a 1-0 lead. Buzz Schneider scored for the United States to tie the game, but the Soviets answered it quickly with a goal by Sergei Makarov.

Down 2-1, Craig improved his shielding of the goal, turning away a flurry of Soviet shots. The Soviet team took 39 shots on goal in the game to the Americans' 16.

In the waning seconds of the first period, Dave Christian fired a desperate slap shot on Tretiak. The Soviet goalie saved the shot but misplayed the rebound, and Mark Johnson scooped it past the goaltender to tie the score with one second left in the period. The Soviet team, visibly shaken by the unexpected tenacity of the Americans team, played the final second of the period with just three players on the ice, as the rest of the team had retired to their dressing room for the first intermission.

To start the second period, Tikhonov replaced Tretiak with backup goaltender Vladimir Myshkin, a move which surprised many players on both teams. Fetisov later identified this as the "turning point of the game." The switch seemed to work at first, as Myshkin allowed no goals in the second period. Aleksandr Maltsev scored on a power play to make the score 3-2.

8:39 into the final period, Johnson scored again for the U.S., firing a loose puck past Myshkin to tie the score just as a power play was ending.

Only a couple shifts later, Mark Pavelich passed to U.S. captain Mike Eruzione, who was left undefended in the high slot. Eruzione fired a 20 ft. shot past Myshkin, who was screened by his own defender. This goal gave the U.S. a 4-3 lead with exactly 10 minutes to play in the contest. The applause was deafening.

Craig withstood another series of Soviet shots to finish the match, though the Soviets did not remove their goalkeeper for an extra attacker. As the U.S. team tried desperately to clear the zone, the crowd began to count down the seconds left. Sportscaster Al Michaels, who was calling the game on ABC along with former Montreal Canadiens goalie Ken Dryden, picked up on the countdown in his broadcast, and delivered his famous call:

"Eleven seconds, you've got ten seconds, the countdown going on right now. Morrow, up to Silk... five seconds to go in the game...Do you believe in miracles? Yes!"

The Americans went on to win the Gold Medal.

The semi-finals upset, the American victory over the Soviet powerhouse, was voted the greatest sports moment of the twentieth century by Sports Illustrated, and has rightfully become known as the "Miracle On Ice". In Spirit of Victory, Rick Rush has masterfully illustrated Mike Eruzione's flooring final shot, the game winning point.