Sports Illustrated cover about the 1980 US hockey team win over the Soviet Union
Sports Illustrated cover about the 1980 US hockey team win over the Soviet Union (Kevin WIlliams, Townsquare Media NJ)

There are defining events in our history in which years later you remember with great detail when you first heard or saw the news.

Depending on your age you might recall well exactly where you were and what you were doing when you heard about the assassinations of JFK & Martin Luther King, the Moon Landing, Elvis Presley being found dead and of course the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.

There are others and for me one that would rate on my memory list happened 40 years ago on Saturday, the “Miracle on Ice” which I consider the greatest moment in sports history in this country.

Anyone under the age of 50 will not get goosebumps like I do every time I think about that Friday.  The United States was playing the Soviet Union in the medal round of the hockey tournament at 1980 Winter Olympics in the tiny village of Lake Placid, New York.

The fact the U.S. even got that far was fairly amazing as they were a bunch of no-name college kids but they did have talent as 13 of the 20 members of the team would go on to play in the National Hockey League and they had a visionary coach in Herb Brooks.

The Americans were the longest of long shots against a Soviet team that was considered the best in the world and had beaten Team USA just 13 days earlier 10-3 in an exhibition game.

What made what would happen that night stand out was it came during a time of political turmoil between the two nations.  The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan, there was an oil crisis that led to long lines at gas stations and 63 Americans were being held hostage in Iran. It was simply the worst of times.

However our hockey team had restored some badly needed American pride and they took the ice that Friday with an entire nation behind them.  The game was scheduled for 5 p.m. and ABC decided not to broadcast it live but instead on tape delay at 8 p.m. during their prime time coverage.

Since this was before the internet all you needed to do was avoid radio and TV for a few hours to watch it like it was live.  Can you imagine this happening today?

I had just started dating Jane Viggiano two months earlier and after working all day at WOBM in Bayville went to the house she was renting in Pine Beach to watch it with no knowledge of the outcome.  I’m sure just about everyone knows the US stunned the Soviets 4-3 which set off a celebration in all 50 states.

What some don’t remember is that game was not for the gold medal as two days later on Sunday they rallied to beat Finland and complete the unlikely journey to the top of the medal stand.  I also watched the game with Miss Viggiano who 17 months later would become Mrs. Williams.

I got the gold as well.

More From Beach Radio