Ad-libbed Line is
Michaels' Legacy

by Rudy Martzke
USA Today

The following is an article that appeared in USA Today on February 22, 2000, the 20th anniversary of the U.S. hockey team's stunning victory over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Olympics.

To ABC's Al Michaels, his Miracle on Ice call was a miracle in itself.

Michaels' famous "Do you believe in Miracles?" line, ending the USA's stunning 4-3 upset of the Soviet Union hockey team at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY, wasn't planned.

It just happened.

"In the last 90 seconds, I was trying to get it right," Michaels recalls. "If the Soviets had scored to tie it, I wanted to make sure who was on the ice.

"But with five or six seconds left, the puck went out to center ice and I knew the U.S. was going to win. The only word that came to mind was 'miraculous.' I turned it into a question, 'Do you believe in miracles?'

"I answered it myself with, 'Yes!'"

A U. S. miracle hardly was expected as Michaels and analyst Ken Dryden walked to the arena for the 5 p.m. ET game that was shown on tape-delay at 8 by ABC.

"The Soviets had beaten the U.S. 10-3 three days before the Olympics," Michaels says. "I told Ken the best we could hope for was for the U.S. to be down 3-1 in the second period.

"But everything the U.S. needed to go its way occurred. The U.S. trailed only 3-2 starting the third. When Mike Eruzione scored for a 4-3 lead with 10 minutes left, I remember the Soviets being confused. They changed lines at warp speed.

"In the last 90 seconds the Soviets didn't pull their goalie. Incredible. I figured that it had been so long since they'd been behind, they never practiced it."

Dennis Lewin, now NFL senior vice president, was ABC's coordinating producer for the tape-delayed telecast that ran shortly after the game's finish.

"By the time we came on the air, Lake Placid had exploded," he says. "People were waving flags and singing God Bless America in the streets. That made for a special scene."

Says Michaels: "Twenty years later people still come up to me and say, 'Do you believe in miracles?' I'm delighted to have an attachment to an event that brought so much joy to so many.

"But the players gave me a pretty good script."

©2000 American Sportscasters Association, Inc.