OLY Miracle at 35
AP

They were kids, really. Twenty in all, from places named Scituate, Massachusetts, and White Bear Lake, Minnesota. 

Their task was to represent their country in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

What they did was author, arguably, one of the most indelible moments in American history.

For two weeks in the small resort town of Lake Placid, New York, the U.S. Olympic Men’s Hockey team galvanized a country by winning six of seven games and claiming a gold medal — beating a powerhouse Soviet Union team at the height of the Cold War. 

Following an opening round 2-2 tie of Sweden, a team composed entirely of collegiate hockey players outscored opponents 31-13 in its final six games.

With each win, though, came a reminder of a looming showdown with one of the legendary international teams. 

And so, on Feb. 22, 1980, Team USA met the Russian Red Army team at Olympic Field House in a semifinal game. 

All the Russians had done up to that point was win gold medals in the previous four Olympic games while employing a weaving, passing, puck-possession style of hockey that would redefine the way the sport would be played. 

The Russian team, populated with stars Vladislav Tretiak, Viacheslav Fetisov and Valeri Kharlamov, was widely expected to defeat an American team it had routed, 10-3, at Madison Square Garden just 12 days earlier.

Internally, though, head coach Herb Brooks relished the opportunity to once again play the Russians.

"You were born to be a player," Brooks told his team prior to the game, according to the New York Times. "You were born to be here."

Brooks' confidence that his team could compete with the Russians proved to be well-founded by the end of the first period, as the game was tied 2-2. Russian coach Victor Tikhonov then made the curious decision to replace Tretiak — at the time, the preeminent goaltender in the sport — with Vladimir Myshkin. 

Like Tretiak, Myshikn yielded two goals, the most significant of which was Mike Eruzione’s game-winner with 10 minutes remaining.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock, broadcaster Al Michaels deliriously yelled, "Do you believe in miracles?"

A label was born but the job wasn’t complete.

As such, when Brooks met with his team before the gold medal game against Finland on Feb. 24, he said if they lost, they "would take this game to their graves."

Instead, a 4-2 win clinched the gold medal, guaranteeing they would be a part of history forever.

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