I thought with the release of the motion picture “Miracle”, this would be the ideal time to introduce begin a discussion that creeps into HTR from time to time. What was more important to hockey, “The Summit Series” or the “Miracle on Ice”?

The Soviets’ dominance in hockey had humbled everyone, including the mighty Canadians, who didn’t compete internationally in the 1970’s because they viewed the Russians as professionals. Soviets players were Darth Vader on skates.

In 1980 The United States defeated the USSR in the semifinal and Finland in the final to win the Olympic gold medal. The “Miracle on Ice” would be enshrined as one of the greatest moments in American sports history. What the U.S. hockey team did to the Soviets on the ice at Lake Placid in 1980 hardly compares to what they did to the hearts and minds of American people. The Americans trailed in six of their seven Olympic wins, including the gold medal game, which they won 4-2 over Finland No other Olympic performance has touched America the way that hockey team did. It was just a game, true, but it resounded with social significance.

The ’72 Summit Series lives in relative anonymity compared the Miracle on Ice eight years later. Some might say it’s because the United States beat the mighty Soviets with college kids, while the ’72 Summit Series featured the NHL’s best players. But others would answer that the big difference was this: The United States pulled out its miracle with no expectations. Had they lost, nobody would have been the worse for it. But the Canadians in ’72? Their national pride was on the line. As big as the 1980 U.S. Olympic triumph was in the U.S. and it was a defining moment in sports history the 1972 win was even bigger in Canada.

All of Canada stopped that day to watch Game 8 of the Summit Series, which stood tied 3-3-1 only after the Canadians beat the Russians in Games 6 and 7. What started out as a friendly exhibition series turned into a microcosm of the Cold War, a battle of good vs. evil in the minds of many. For the first time, Canada was sending its NHL stars to play against the mighty Soviets, who had been dominating amateur teams for years. This was almost as much about war as it was about the sport.

The Soviets took a 5-3 lead into the third period, but the Canadians got goals to tie it. And in the frantic final minute, Henderson gathered a loose puck in front of the net and shoved it past the legendary Tretiak for the series-winner. It brought Canadians together probably better than any other thing did, maybe even war.

It brought them together, but it also moved them — and the game of hockey — forward. Russian influence on the NHL began with that series. The NHL players saw the Russians superior conditioning, saw the emphasis on skill over brute strength and saw the discipline and dedication of men who were truly playing as if their lives depended on it. All of that would become incorporated into the NHL over time, and several years later the influx of Russian and European players would forever alter the face of the NHL.

Both “The Summit Series” and the “Miracle on Ice” are incredible feats that will never be forgotten, however my question to you on HTR is which one is more important to institution of hockey, 24 years later and which do you think is the greater of the two in sports history? There are a few of you I would like to hear from in particular.

40 Responses to MIRACLE

  1. distance7 says:

    Americans will say “The Miracle on ice.” The Canadians will say the Summit Series. It’ll be hard to say that saying either is a wrong answer.

  2. SaskSen says:

    I think it all depends on what you mean by important. The Summit series was clearly more important to hockey. It basically began the migration of Europeans and opened the eyes to all of North America of the skill around the world.

    The Miracle on ice may have been bigger for the NHL. The most crucial part of the NHL’s success is success in the States. If the NHL fails there it fails period.

    All in all though the Summit Series was by far the more important hockey event. Miracle on Ice was the most important for selling hockey in the States. In my opinion at least.

  3. Wills says:

    For the game of hockey itself I would say the Summit was much more important. Upsets happen all the time in every sport, because on any given day any team can beat anyone. If that “Miracle on Ice” game was in Russia would the outcome been the same?

    The Summit Series just wasn’t a one single game upset, it was a series to once and for all prove which country was the best at hockey. The two best countries in the world in a 8 games series. Canada came back and won 3 games in a row in Russia to win the claim of the best country in the world at hockey.

    USA proved in their win that any team can beat anyone on any given night, Canada with their win proved they were the best country in the world at hockey.

  4. TC_4 says:

    I don’t believe that the NHL fails if it fails in the States, but it defintley fails to be the “4th major sport” and players wouldn’t be getting anywhere near the money they do.

  5. TC_4 says:

    Good article, good facts about both. One thing to be said about the miracle on ice, the Americans wouldn’t have had the powerhouse teams they’ve had over the last ten years without it. Roenick, Weight, LeClair, Amonte, Tkachuck, Modano, Guerin, Leetch, and Schneider. You can’t tell me that these guys(all born between 68 and 72)weren’t affected big time from what happend in 1980. But obviously 72 had an affect on players that were on the 84, 87, and 91 Canada Cup teams.

  6. mondoman says:

    you are correct sir.

  7. comrie44 says:

    Summit Series by a mile.

    2 hockey superpowers battle for the first time in extremely hostile conditions that went the distance, there will never be another series like it.

    I wasn’t alive in 1980, so can someone tell me what the atmosphere was like during the “miracle”?

    Was everyone glued to the TV or was it only after they heard the outcome did it become such a big deal in the States? Considering the gold medal game in 2002 didn’t garner that much American attention.

  8. rojoke says:

    I couldn’t tell you about the atmosphere, but I can tell you that the Americans were grossly out-matched by the Soviets. They were basically the Red Army club team, with a few extra bodies maybe, as at the time, the Red Army conscripted every elite hockey player in the Soviet Union. If you could play, you played for them.

    The Americans came in with a bunch of players that nobody knew, and only a handful went on to any kind of NHL career. Jim Craig played briefly in Boston, and of course Mike Ramsey had a great career. But those are the only guys that I can recall seeing in the NHL. Maybe some more names can be added by others.

    However, from what I understand, that game is one of the highest rated sporting events in US history. And I believe it was named the most significant moment in US international competition, by either ESPN or SI, or both.

  9. flyersfan10897 says:

    the miracle on ice wasnt just about winning a gold medal eventually. it was about beating the russians and having a terrific story in an otherwise very bad time. this is was the time of the hostage crisis and a emotional depression in the united states that this game fixed. the olympic team used college players against a machine-like russian team, while the summit series was using NHL players. both were very important to hockey, and each to their respective countries.

  10. flyersfan10897 says:

    im pretty sure the game was over before it was broadcasted on TV, but im not sure if people knew the score ahead of time because of TV coverage.

  11. Primis says:

    Summit Series by a mile.

    I wasn’t alive in 1980, so can someone tell me what the atmosphere was like during the “miracle”?

    If you weren’t alive for either it’s awfully hard to make a judgement….

    I was alive for the Miracle (unfortunately I was too young to be doing anything but trying to eat a remote control or something probably). I still hate the fact I couldn’t see it.

    Was everyone glued to the TV or was it only after they heard the outcome did it become such a big deal in the States?

    There were some leaks here or there about the game as it went on live, but it was tape-delayed and almost everyone it the US didn’t know what had happened until it happend on TV.

    — Primis.

  12. LondonK says:

    This shouldn’t even be a debate. The Summit Series takes this by 100 country miles. The “Miracle on Ice” was a great accomplishment and everything, but the Summit Series took hockey to the extreme.

    The US winning was an upset in a game. Granted they had college kids and everything but in comparison the Summit Series was the bigger of the two victories.

    As for the NHL being nothing without the Miracle on Ice thing. No, it would survive, just like it survived before. Hockey would survive in Canada, and it would survive in the hockey markets in the US. Detroit had no problems having a franchise before, same with New York, Chicago (now they do though), Boston, Minnesota. There are plently of cities that would be fine without this event. The NHL would be better off if the fringe markets were gone.

  13. UsedandAbused says:

    The Summit Series may have had some importance to hockey, but by FAR the “Miracle on Ice” was more important. Lets face it the Miracle was by FAR the BIGGEST UPSET of ALL TIME. The Canadians had their BEST players against the Russians. The Americans had COLLEGE players beat a team that had won 40 games straight and even had beated certian NHL teams. Without the Miracle happening hockey may not have EVER evolved into one of Americas top sports. Sorry guys but the NHL wouldn’t be shit without so many American cities and fans. Thats where the money comes from. European players wouldn’t be playing in the NHL if there wasn’t so much money involved. The “Miracle On Ice” was EXACTLY that…. A Miracle! I am not saying that “The Summit Series” wasn’t and important event or important to Canadians, because it was and should be. Each was more important to their country, though there was NEVER a upset like the Americans over the Russians and there probably never will be one like that again.

  14. UsedandAbused says:

    It just wouldn’t be a top sport… Maybe in Canada and all.. but there would be like 10 teams.

  15. UsedandAbused says:

    “USA proved in their win that any team can beat anyone on any given night” if you say this…. Then how can you say that the outcome would be different in Russia? How can you possible know that? They still would have one….

  16. hockeyhead6868 says:

    Bottom Line…..Canada while the heart of hockey, mattered very little in terms of the cold war. I hate to sound jingoistic but its the truth. The american victory, while only one game (with college kids I might add), was more of a thorn in the sides of the USSR that the summit series. But the summit was a great matchup.

  17. hockeyhead6868 says:

    Bottom Line…..Canada while the heart of hockey, mattered very little in terms of the cold war. I hate to sound jingoistic but its the truth. The american victory, while only one game (with college kids I might add), was more of a thorn in the sides of the USSR that the summit series. But the summit was a great matchup.

  18. IrishRinkrat says:

    This is a great, great question Spektor. For this I can give two answers… for America, the country, and American hockey, the Miracle On Ice at Lake Placid is their greatest triumph… because of all the problems in the world, I am a firm believer that sports aids in tough times (Denny McLain and the ’68 Tigers, the New York baseball scene after 9/11, Super Bowl XXV, etc.)

    But, for the general sports landscape, and yes, also because of the Cold War persona of the series, I take the 1972 Summit Series as the greater moment in sports history. The fact it was Canadians and not Americans in the Summit Series makes many casual American fans not care as much, even though the Cold War feelings were more than evident. Also showing now the NHL’s cream of the crop were still the best hockey players in the world meant something… who knows… if they lost, would it have had an adverse affect on North American hockey… that the Soviets were better at a sport of Canadian creation. I guess we’ll never know… but I will take the ’72 Summit Series.

    These both deserve legitimate nods as some of the ten greatest moments in major sports history.

  19. Datsyuk13 says:

    It’s hard to say which one was more important to hockey… The summit series yes… but in the eyes of americans of course they would say the miracle on ice… i think the summit series was more important to hockey but the miracle on ice was the most amazing…

  20. UsedandAbused says:

    Yea hockey wouldn’t fail… but the NHL would probably be mostly in Canada and not nearly as big as it is today. European players wouldn’t be in the NHL.. It would be mostly Canadian.

  21. IrishRinkrat says:

    An upset happens, I can’t knock that. But remember, after the U.S. upset the Soviets, they had to beat a very tough Finland team for the gold, and before the Soviets, a tough Czechaslovakia team. Now I’m not saying those two were as good as the Russians, but it wasn’t one upset… it was a tourney of upsets, and one hell of a run.

  22. Aetherial says:

    The miracle on ice was one of the greatest upsets all time in sports history.

    However, it was one game.

    Anyone who has seen the films of the summit series would agree that it was more significant, sorry.

    The Summit series was the first time we saw the Russians at full strnegth internationally and the first time that Canada got to show its best.

    The biggest difference…

    The miracle on ice was one game. The summit series was 8 games. The crap that happened in Russia, behind the scenes and on the ice is something most of us have forgotten. It was unbelieveable what Canada overcame to win that.

    A one game upset can happen any time. Sorry but the States, in all likelihood would have lost 4 straight after that game if it was a 7 game series.

    Yes, Canada was favored… by North Americans. Nobody had any idea the Russians were THAT good.

    The Summit series is still the most significant series of all time, period.

    The miracle on ice was the greatest hockey upset of all time.

  23. LondonK says:

    So. Let the cities that care about the game have it. I have no interest in struggling to get Florida hooked on a game where the ice melts near the end of the season because they can’t keep a rink cool enough. And I don’t care for cities having a team when they leave in the second period of a playoff game, after already not selling anywhere near all of the tickets.

  24. headpushslap says:

    It is actually a law here in Canada that any discussion of this sort is punishable by life in Saskatchewan (The Canadians will get that).

    Seriously, the Summit Series was the better match-up, but the Miracle grabbed everyone by the yambag and didn’t let go until it was all over.

    My vote: Miracle on Ice

    Why: The Soviet Union had won eight of the previous nine Olympic golds. Eight of Nine. Golly, that’s a lot.

    More seriously, the Summit Series did not galvanize the world the way the Miracle did. Canadians expected Team Canada to win, Russkies expected the Commies to win. No surprise that the series went to the dying minutes of the final game.

    NOBODY (except the USA Hockey Team) expected the US to even get to the medals. Once Team USA vanquished the RED TERROR, the entire hockey world shook its head and realized that THE MIGHTY BEAR IS BEATABLE! Hope washed over the peasants and the sun shone brighter, for now the entire world had seen that the mighty Kremlin Krue could be bested.

  25. UsedandAbused says:

    Who cares about your interest…

  26. eagle29 says:

    Summit Series.No contest for this one.

  27. Treva says:

    I just saw the movie last night, and i have yet to check the stats. It seemed to me like the states had a grand total of 8 shots on goal while the ruskies had about 30. Did Jim Craig really steal that game??

    About the summit series vs miracle? I would say miracle would be one of the greatest upsets of all time, making it a great sports moment. The summit series was 8 games, and won by one game. Not really domination at all.

    Each are more important in their respective countries.

  28. Wills says:

    All that stuff was important to the US, not the rest of the world. The Summit was important to the whole world because it showed who has the claim of the best hockey nation in the world.

  29. Wills says:

    I never said the outcome would be different if the game was played in Russia, I just questioned it. Home ice advantage especially in something like the Olympics is a huge advantage.

  30. Wills says:

    “The Summit Series may have had some importance to hockey” wow you just don’t understand the game of hockey if you only think it may have had some importance.

  31. cwthrash says:

    The answer to your question is both. I know, some people might say “take a stand you wuss”. But I do believe that both events have incredible significance to hockey.

    If you’re talking about sports events, all sports events, the the Miracle is the bigger of the two in sports history. College kids pulled off upset after upset, coming back to win several games they had no business even being in. The win over a(for all intents and purposes) professional Russian team is and always will be the focal point, but you can’t forget they were outmatched in the other games as well.

    Like some have already said, your answer depends on what country you are from. To Canadians, the Summit Series was the bigger accomplishment. To Americans, the Miracle. You can’t really argue against either. Each event made a very significant impact, brought a nation together and greatly influenced players and fans alike. The most defining hockey moment for each nation, with very little doubt.

    You can argue the relative impact that each event had on the game itself. The influences mentioned tend to be a bit abstract, so it is very difficult to say with any certainty which had the greater influence. We could argue until we are blue in the face, and still not come close to a convincing argument that would sway this in any one direction.

    Let’s just say they are the two defining moments in the history of North American hockey, and be very glad that both of them happened.

    As an aside, I do remember watching the ’80 Olympics. I was only a wee lad, so I didn’t completely understand what it meant at the time. Later I did. But I do remember my hair standing on end, again for reasons I didn’t really get. But that one event, those relatively few games played by the US, turned me into a hockey fan for life. So the Miracle holds a very special place for me, and I’ll probably always be a little biased towards it.

  32. UsedandAbused says:

    Ok.. I don’t much about hockey there… lol

  33. trailerparkboys says:

    Did’nt the Broton brothers play for that team Neil and Aaron?

  34. GeniushockeyKID says:

    so, has anyone here seen the movie? how was it?

  35. trailerparkboys says:

    Would you still see Wanye Gretzky play the same game(behind his back trough his legs off the clock right on Jari’s stick UNDER THE BAR.) If it wasn’t for the summit series?

    I’ve heard an argument that made sense to me. If canada lost that series we would not have been so cocky as to what style wins hockey. Dump and chase is not that fun to watch.Especily [sp] when the goalies grab the puck and shoot it out it kind of helps the trap.

    And if the miracle didn’t happen we would be watching 80’s hockey with no money involed The original 21 yeah baby!!!!!! old time hockey.

    On a side note the Oilers payroll was 3 million when they won there first cup 84. Gretzky made a million and Charlie Huddy made 60,000 …..

    Bubbles out

  36. BarryMelrosesMullet says:

    Your an idiot! See you later idiot!

  37. starsgirl25 says:

    i would really love to have an opinion about which is the better of the two series, but that does show my age just a little bit.

    i will say this, the movie miracle is not that bad. it could have been a lot worse. at least it didn’t make a love story out of it like disney is prone to do. kurt russell was great as herb brooks. my only problem with it were teh game scenes, they made me a little dizzy b/c it changed from a fan perspective to an on ice perspective too often. all in all it was good and i would see it again.

  38. Zamboni says:

    Both are huge moments in the history of hockey, let me say that first, these are both top 5, if not 1-2.

    Let’s also get the fact that I’m an American and therefore am bias in favor of the Miracle.

    These are hard events to compare, as they were so different in nature. The Summit Series was 8 games, while the Miracle on Ice was one game. It was one game on the world’s largest athletic stage though. Everything pales in comparison to the Olympics. It is a worldwide event. Everybody has got pride at stake and the political implications are immeasurable. With the world’s two superpowers staring down the barrels of each other’s guns, the college kids from the USA played their hearts out and knocked off a team that by all rights should’ve handed it to them. Forget the hockey implications, there’s world history implications here. The Miracle on Ice was a key catalyst in America regaining the sense of national pride that had absolutely taking a beating in Vietnam and the rest of the 70’s. I had an economics professor in college who was a former advisor of Gorbachev who declared the 1980 Lake Placid to the Americans not a “thorn in the side,” as I saw it described in a previous post, but (and I quote here), “a kick to the balls, an absolute embarrassment.” The Soviets were never on the same political or economic footing as the Americans, but they had used their athletic dominance to kick dirt in our faces and leave the thought in our minds that if it came down to a fight, we couldn’t beat them there either.

    To cut myself off before this really becomes a history lecture, I’ll sum it up like this: To view the Miracle on Ice from only it’s hockey-related implications is absolutely trivializing what that event really meant.

  39. caskade says:

    miracle no doubt….

    the biggest reason is the scale. someone touched on it but didnt hit the nail on the head… while the summit series was international and important to the game and canadians… it wasnt that the americans rallied behind the miracle team… the WORLD did. the stage was set for it… due to the scale of the cold war, the times set (remember there were american hostages being taken in iran days before the games) the boycott that russia was threatening…

    also, the russians had just embarrased the NHL in a country wide tour… canadian teams also…

    and the “legendary tretiak” in the summit was not the eight year later veteran that had won the last 45 games straight….

    the situations up to the two events are what separates the miracle as the more important world and sporting event, in that order.


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