In fact, the week before the Games, they played Team USA in NYC and hammered them 10-3. Nobody gave us a chance including probably our own players, as our team was comprised mostly of recent college grads or college kids with no pro experience and an average age of 21. When we finally beat West Germany 4-2 in the last preliminary round game, we clinched a spot in the Final 4 vs. USSR. Game on!
Shelly and I were thrilled to be holding a pair of center ice tickets for this game. People were getting up to $1000 a seat on the street for a ticket. But then we were thrown for a loop…it turns out the 8:30pm game was going to be the Sweden-Finland semi instead of USA-USSR. American politicians pleaded with the Russians to swap times with Sweden-Finland so it could be broadcasted in “prime time” here in the US, but the Russians were not our best friends back then and refused. It was to be played at 5:30pm…arrrggghhh….fortunately, I had a cousin who worked for ABC up there and he was able to get us into the arena for the game and we got to view it from the control room where the director was watching 20- something monitors from cameras inside the building right next to the ice. So we did get to watch the game live in the building.
As the game went on and we tied it at 3-3 in the 3rd period, the noise built to a deafening roar. When Mike Eruzione scored with 10 minutes to go, the anticipation and noise level was off the charts! For the game, the Russians outshot the USA 39 to 16 and it seemed as if most of those shots came in the last few minutes. Our goalie, Jim Craig, made one acrobatic save after another while our players sacrificed their bodies to block as many shots as they could get in front of.
Then finally, the “countdown” from Al Michaels and then it was over! Total bedlam throughout…hugging, kissing, jumping up and down at once, 8500 people, less the Russians in attendance, went berserk! Everyone spilled into the streets of the village and the chant “USA, USA” echoed through the cold, dark evening air for hours and hours. It seemed to electrify an already electric scene and the clubs and restaurants quickly filled with ecstatic revelers. Shelly and I remained behind to watch Sweden tie Finland in a dull 3-3 game, at least dull compared to the game we had just witnessed. We did join the celebration after our game was over .
On Sunday morning, with Shelly and I sitting along the ice behind the goal, we watched Team USA come from behind to defeat Finland for the Gold medal 4-2. It was a dream tourney if there ever was one!