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Miracle On Ice

By Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS

It was February 22, 1980 and I was just 9-years old. And I remember the day like it was just last year. I was at soccer practice for the “Brick Rowdies” at the old Lanes Mills Elementary School in Brick, NJ, and all the parents were huddled around this big boom box with the AM radio on. There was slight static but they were listening to the game.

THE Game.

THE greatest game in the history of United States sports.

The US Olympic Hockey Team vs. The Soviet Union. The daunted Russian national team that was just demolishing their opponents. The Russians were big. Fast. Explosive. Talented. Experienced.

The Soviet “Red Army” hockey team had not lost a game in 12 years and could easily beat most NHL pro teams.

And then there were the Americans. They were just a bunch of “rag-tag”, blue-collar kids who had just completed college.

And they were now taking on the Soviets in the semi-final Olympic hockey at Lake Placid, New York.

The date was Feb 22nd 1980. And by now, you know the outcome of the game.

It transformed a team. A sport. A country. And dare I say, the world.

At practice that day, I remember hearing the roar of the parents yelling off in the distance when the Americans went ahead 4-3 with 10 minutes to go in the 3rd period. And I remember, the seeing the complete jubilation, dancing, yelling, and running around by our parents after the team defeated the Soviets.

We knew something special had just happened. Seeing all our parents literally sprinting around, dancing, yelling, and high-fivin’ like a bunch of 9-year olds was NOT normal.

Sunday, Feb 22, 2015, marks the 35th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice. This is when the men’s hockey team pulled off the most improbable, shocking 4-3 victory over the powerful Soviets.

As Coach Herb Brooks said, “If we played them 10 times, we would lose 9 times…but not tonight. Not tonight boys…not tonight!”

The “Miracle on Ice” is one of my favorite movies of all time. It’s real. It’s a true story. And it captures the emotions of 20 young men, a team, and a country fighting for its place in immortality.

It shares the story of a bunch of amateurs coming together to create an amazing TEAM. Hard work. Discipline. Confidence. Sacrifice. BELIEF.

The thought alone of this miracle conjures up thoughts of Herb Brooks having the team gel together in their infamous “RUN IT AGAIN” training session. The rink manager left. The staff left. Brooks and the team did not. And they just kept sprinting their sprints over and over and over. “AGAIN…AGAIN…AGAIN…”

And finally, with guys keeled over and puking, and Brooks asking over and over “Who do you play for?”, finally Mike Eruzione spoke up and said, “Mike Eruzione. I play for Team USA.”

Whistle blew. Practice over.

That was their defining moment. That is when they won this game. That is when they finally gave up the “name on the back of their jersey” and played for the team on the front of their jersey. “USA”


1980 was an interesting time. America was in a difficult era. And there were several “tough” situations/things happening:

  • There was the hostage crisis in Iran where Iran was holding 52 US diplomats and civilians hostage. There was a lot of political tension and a feeling of futility and hopelessness in the country. It was a scary time.
  • There was a gas shortage (due to the Iranian gov’t reducing exports to us) that caused Americans to have to “ration” off gas. Depending on if your license plate ended with an even number or an odd number dictated on what days you could actually purchase gasoline. I remember the long lines vividly going into the local Hess gasoline station.
  • Inflation was at 13% and interest rates to buy a home or borrow money was at 21%.
  • Morale was low. Drug use was high.

And I remember going to bed scared at night about the Soviet Union. Not the hockey team. But the country. Russia was huge. They were powerful. And there was the “cold war” going on. I remember seeing the Russian tanks on the news and being scared at night that we might go to war with them.

And then the MIRACLE happened. It captured the essence of what Olympic sports SHOULD be all about.

Perseverance. Drive. Determination. Amateurism. Sportsmanship. Hardwork. Passion. Teamwork. Discipline. Sacrifice. And BELIEF.

And most importantly, the MIRACLE gave us HOPE. It gave us inspiration. It allowed us to BELIEVE in miracles.

And it helped shape the foundation of American modern sport.


This week’s WOW (Word of the Week) is “1980”.

You see, in 1980, this victory was improbable. No one gave these kids a chance to win this game in Lake Placid. No one. Except them.

And dare I say that they would NOT have won this game if they weren’t a “team.”

If they were a bunch of individuals out there playing on their own ability and prowess, they would have been blown out by the Soviets.

But they were a team. They were collectively much GREATER as a unit then they were as individual players. The sum was greater than their parts.

In so many ways, we all want & need a DEFINING MOMENT in your life.

And that usually takes way MORE than you think you can handle.

  • It often means you being chopped down to your knees.
  • It often means people doubting you and telling you that it’s not possible to do what you want to do.
  • It means sometimes being cut from a team (just as Herb Brooks was the last cut from the last USA Team to win a gold medal in the Olympics prior to the 1980 win; Squaw Valley, CA).
  • It means sometimes you will fail.
  • It means training so hard that you sometimes feel like you are going to puke. Or actually do.
  • It means getting your mind right and stop listening to what the world is saying about you.

We all need a DREAM. We all need to have something that we meticulously work for to help fulfill a purpose.

What is your DREAM?

What “Miracle” do you want to see happen in your life?

What is your “1980” moment going to be?

There are going to be doubters. There will be naysayers. There will be obstacles, challenges, and issues that stand in your way.

But when you surround yourself with great players, great coaches, a great team, and a driving purpose and focus to do what needs to be done to help you accomplish what you SO desire, you truly can accomplish whatever it is that you want.

So go get after it and make today a WINNING day…and get one step closer to attaining your “Gold Medal.”

And one more thing…. “Do you believe in miracles….YES!!!!” (thank you Al Michaels.)

Much love…and many miracles.


P.S. Remember, that defining victory by the Americans was just the semi-final. After an emotional high on that Friday, they had to come back 2 days later to play a talented Finland team in the gold medal game. After 2 periods, the Americans were down 2-1. They went in the locker room with one period left, looked at each other in the eyes, and said, “NOT TONIGHT…NOT TONIGHT.”

They proceded to go out and win the 3rd period and ultimately win the game 4-2. They were crowned Olympic Gold Medalists.

And the rest is history.

Whether you are American, Canadian, or any other nationality, we all need “1980” moments.


P.P.S. There is a great “30 for 30” airing on ESPN these days about the 1980 US Hockey team and specifically the US vs. Soviet hockey game. They did a great job interviewing many of the former Soviet players that played in that game in 1980. They captured an insight I had never heard before and it gives you further insight as to just how BIG of a game this was and the IMPACT it had on so many levels. Check it out!


Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS, is an internationally-recognized performance trainer, bodyworker, speaker, author, and owner of award-winning gym Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, CA (one of the Top 10 Gyms in the U.S.). His outstanding team of 38 professionals deliver extraordinary service in personal training, sports performance training, massage/bodywork, Pilates, yoga, physical therapy and chiropractic. Todd is the Lead Training Advisor for Under Armour, regular contributor to Men’s Health, and author of The IMPACT! Body Plan.

Todd is also the President/CEO of Todd Durkin Enterprises where he conducts motivational keynotes/presentations, educational & leadership workshops, he operates a Mastermind Group for dedicated fitness entrepreneurs, and he presents internationally on health, fitness, peak performance, and success in life.

You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ToddDurkin, his FB Fan page atToddDurkinFQ10, or sign up for his monthly motivational newsletter You can get more information on his facility or

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