MINNEAPOLIS - The American push for a gold medal in men's hockey has created a buzz that's rarely been seen around the U.S. team since its biggest win ever 30 years ago this week: the Miracle on Ice victory over the powerful Soviet Union.
The improbable 4-3 win, immortalized by announcer Al Michaels' call "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" in the final seconds, came from a young U.S. team handpicked and guided by the late Herb Brooks.
It was a shining moment for Americans, one "that everyone knows exactly where they were when that happened," said Brooks' son Dan, who was 12 when he watched the game from the arena's standing-room-only section.
"You got 9/11, you got the Kennedy assassination, you have the space shuttle blowing up ... And unfortunately, those were all tragedies, and this wasn't. This wasn't a sporting event - it was really a piece of American history," said Dan Brooks, now a 42-year-old financial adviser in Minneapolis.
The Americans went on to beat Finland 4-2 for the gold at Lake Placid on Feb. 24, 1980. The current U.S team is the top seed headed into Wednesday's quarterfinals after stunning Canada 5-3 over the weekend.
Dan Brooks said his father, who died in a freeway crash in 2003, tried to "chip away at the Soviet mystique" to inspire his players, who were mainly collegians from Minnesota, Massachusetts, Michigan and Wisconsin competing against a dominant Soviet machine.
"He kept saying throughout that whole two-week tournament that someone is going to beat those guys," the younger Brooks recalled. "He just tried to make them (the Soviets) more human because back then, that team was ... inhuman, they were almost superheroes, kind of like robots."
Just as Kurt Russell portrayed Herb Brooks in the 2004 movie "Miracle," Dan Brooks said his father found the best way to get the U.S. team to come together was to "create one common enemy, and that was himself. And he was a mean SOB back then ... I saw what he did to them physically and emotionally. It was tough, it was tough."
Brooks' family didn't see much of him during the 1980 Olympics. Brooks' widow, Patti, said she, son Dan and daughter Kelly were staying at a rented chalet 15 miles away from Lake Placid, N.Y., while her husband stayed at Olympic Village. "And we went our way and he went his way," she said Monday.
When the U.S. beat the Soviets, Patti Brooks says she tried to get to the locker room "and it was just chaotic." Her family didn't have credentials, and she was turned away at every door and gate until she showed her driver's license and persuaded a guard to let her in. There she saw her husband talking on the phone with President Jimmy Carter.
"And then he just gave me this big hug and it was almost like a sigh of relief."
To Dan Brooks, the Americans' victory the Soviets provided a boost of patriotism after long gas lines in the 1970s and the U.S. hostage crisis in Iran.
"No one felt good about themselves. And that was what the country needed," he said.
Both his son and wife say Brooks, who later coached the U.S. to a silver medal in the 2002 Olympics, did not revel in the "Miracle on Ice" hoopla. After her husband's death, Patti Brooks said, "the UPS man came to the door and he had big tears in his eyes" and recalled that Brooks, a humble, blue-collar guy from St. Paul, would talk "about the yard or the dog" - but not about the Americans' upset win.
Mike Eruzione, who at 25 was one of the oldest players on the 1980 team, said Herb Brooks, a three-time national winner while coaching the University of Minnesota, had "a great knack" for picking talented players.
"I think it was kind of the perfect storm," said Eruzione, the team captain who scored the game-winner midway through the final period. "I've said before, 'We don't win without him and he doesn't win without us.' It was the perfect marriage."
Brooks' family had no plans to mark the Miracle on Ice anniversary. Former Minnesota North Stars general manager Lou Nanne, who was general manager of the 1980 U.S. Olympic squad, said he didn't realize Monday was the anniversary until he saw Jim Craig, the 1980 team's goalie, doing an interview.
Dan Brooks said if his father were alive, he probably would have marked the anniversary like any other day - by hanging out with his buddies at a Twin Cities coffee shop. And he would be cheering on Team USA at Vancouver.
"He believed in the American player back in the '70s, he believed in his team in 2002, and I know he'd believe in this team that the U.S. has put on the ice," Dan Brooks said.
AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell in Minneapolis contributed to this story.