The 1980 "Miracle on Ice," in which the underdog U. hockey team defeated the heavily favorite Soviet squad, was a truly uplifting event for America. Not only was this a great U.S. sports moment, it was also a time when we were experiencing a lot of economic and political stress. Although there are many parallels today in terms of current political and economic circumstances, it is hard to envision an Olympic moment at the upcoming Sochi games that would be as powerful as the "Miracle on Ice.".
At the time of the 1980 Winter Olympics, the United States was suffering through hard times with a high unemployment, inflation, energy shortages and the Iran Hostage Crisis. Additionally, the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan in December 1979, which had elevated cold war tensions with the U.S. These difficult economic conditions as well as Americans watching our hostages in Iran on the news every night in some respects gave people a sense of helplessness. The Soviet hockey team, consisting of the best players in their country, was essentially a professional squad who did nothing but train and play hockey every day of the year. The Russians won four straight gold medals from 1964 to 1976, nearly defeated a team of Canada's top professional players in 1972, and beat several N.H.L. teams. In fact, Canada and Sweden boycotted 1980 Olympic hockey to protest the Soviets retaining their amateur status.
Before the 1980 Olympics began, it's likely that the average U.S. hockey fan feared the Soviet team just as our citizens feared the Soviet nation as a large, belligerent nuclear superpower. In fact, just prior to start of the 1980 Olympics, the Russians routed the American team by a score of 10-3 in an exhibition which likely contributed to our Soviet anxiety.
When the U.S. defeated the imposing Soviet team in a come from behind, 4-3 victory every American was elated. People watching in-person and on TV were yelling, screaming and proudly waving American flags.