Very close to the science museum in Saint Paul stands a bronze statue of U.S. hockey coach Herb Brooks, his arms outstretched, celebrating the victory that became known as the “Miracle on Ice.”
The “miracle” refers to a medal-round upset game between the United States and USSR during the men’s ice hockey tournament at the 1980 Winter Olympics. The Soviet team were the defending world champions, and heavily favored to win. The team had won the hockey gold medal in five of the six previous Winter Olympics.
While the players on the Soviet team were essentially full-time professionals with ample experience in international competition, the American team, led by head coach Herb Brooks, were all amateur players and the youngest team in the tournament.
A Saint Paul native, Brooks coached the University of Minnesota team from 1972 to 1979. He selected much of his Olympic team from Minnesota. Nine members had played for Brooks’ Golden Gophers, who had won three national titles in six years.
For the first game in the medal round, the United States played the USSR and to everyone’s surprise, except for Brooks and his team, they won the game 4–3. This shocking upset against the Cold War rivals was dubbed a Miracle on Ice by the victorious Americans. The U.S. went on to clinch the gold medal.
The Miracle on Ice is often seen as a turning point for U.S. hockey, and has even been called the greatest moment in American sports history. The historic victory has been commemorated in several movies, including Disney’s 2004 film, Miracle.