Feisty, uncommon Craig shuts down Soviets
Feb. 22, 1980 -- The game between the United States and the U.S.S.R. offered a classic David vs. Goliath script: a group of amateurs, taking on the powerful Soviet Union, amateur in name only, on home ice in the middle of the Cold War. ABC, which televised the 1980 Winter Olympics, sensed a ratings bonanza and tried to push back the 5 p.m. starting time to an 8 p.m. prime-time slot, but the U.S.S.R. refused and the game was televised on a tape-delayed basis.
Led by emotional leader Jim Craig in goal, the U.S. entered the third and final period within striking range, trailing 3-2. Craig had managed to stop 27 Soviet shots in the first two periods. Then, at 8:39 of the third, Mark Johnson scored a power-play goal to knot the score at 3-3. When captain Mike Eruzione knocked home a self-described "slop goal," the Americans had accomplished the unthinkable, taking a 4-3 lead over the mighty Soviets with 10 minutes to play at the Olympic Ice Center in Lake Placid, N.Y.
Craig, who had routinely tied up the puck in the crease throughout the tournament to slow down play, began deflecting shots back into play in order to limit the number of face-offs inside the U.S. zone. The strategy worked brilliantly, with Craig shutting down the powerful Soviets the rest of the way.
The U.S.S.R. began firing wild shots and playing dump-and-chase hockey -- an NHL staple forbidden by Brooks. In the end, it was the Soviets who blinked. As the clock ticked down to zero, Soviet coach Viktor Tikhanov refused to pull his goalie, as if doing so would be an admission of weakness.
Brooks was fond of telling his team, "You can't be common, because the common man goes nowhere. You have to be uncommon."
The U.S. team, led by its feisty goaltender, Jim Craig, proved to be the most uncommon team in Olympic history.
Odds 'n' Ends