Saturday, Feb. 22 marked the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice, when the United States Olympic team stunned the hockey world, defeating the Soviet Union, 4-3.
Craig Patrick, the assistant general manager and assistant coach for the team under Herb Brooks in 1980, has had continued success in the game of hockey since then — but nothing can compare to that amazing Olympic run.
“I knew going into the Olympics that we had a chance to win a medal. I didn’t envision a gold medal,” Patrick said on Glenn Clark Radio Feb. 20.
Patrick, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame, joined Brooks on the Olympic coaching staff after playing for him in the early 1970s. They coached and worked together for parts of the next two decades, including with the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins in addition to Team USA.
“He brought me on board in May of ’79, he had everything planned out then,” Patrick said.
The Americans’ magical run was almost stopped short. After seven months and more than 60 pre-Olympic games together, the United States entered the third period against the Soviets down, 3-2, in the first leg of the medal round.
The United States found the net twice in the third period and held on to their one-goal lead for the final 10 minutes of the contest.
“The guys were so determined to win that game,” Patrick said. “There was no way they weren’t going to win.”
Forty years later, the game is still remembered as one of the greatest feats in American sports history, though many forget that the team still had one game left to play in order to secure the gold medal. The Americans went on to defeat Finland, 4-2, two days later, capturing the 1980 hockey gold.
“Those kids … they worked so hard. And not only that, they were talented,” Patrick said. “As a group, they played over 6,000 games in the NHL, scored over 3,500 points in the NHL — I mean, they were a good, athletic team.”
And Patrick would know, having played eight seasons in the NHL and numerous games with the U.S. national team before being inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1996. One of Patrick’s stops along the way was his short but special time with the Baltimore Clippers during the 1971-72 season.
At the time, the Clippers were the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s California Golden Seals.
“When I got to Baltimore, coach [Terry] Reardan used me a lot and gave me a lot of confidence, and I found that I could do some special things on the ice that I wasn’t able to do in the NHL when I first got there and it gave me the confidence to go back and rejuvenate my pro career,” Patrick said.
Even after just 12 games with the team, Patrick can still remember the Clippers’ fight song: “Go you Baltimore Clippers, go you Clippers from Baltimore …”
After his playing career ended in 1979, he got right into coaching with his role in assisting Brooks. Following the gold medal win, Patrick remembered leaving the Olympic Village not knowing how much of an impact the team had made across the country.
“We had no idea,” Patrick said of the significance of the win. “Here we are sitting in limos, four people to a limo looking at each other like, ‘What did we do? What’s going on here?'”
The players were used to being college students, traveling mostly on school buses to and from practice and games.
“From Andrews Air Force Base to the White House, the roads on both sides — and that is not a short drive — was packed with people waving flags,” Patrick said on the team’s support while on the way to meet President Jimmy Carter.
Patrick has continued to coach and manage in the game long after the Olympic win. He is now set to be the commissioner of 3ICE, a fast-paced three-on-three hockey league, slated to start games in 2021.
To hear more from Patrick, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox