One of the most eagerly anticipated games in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics hockey tournament will no doubt be the United States vs. Russia match-up on February 15th. It goes without saying that these two great countries share a storied rivalry, both on and off of the ice.
Last year’s silver medalists, the US will field a star-studded crop of NHL talent, led by the likes of Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, Ryan Kesler, Joe Pavelski and Ryan Miller. They’ll go up against a Russian squad with superstar talents like Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk that will be supported by a hometown crowd to win their first hockey medal since 2002.
How ironic that the two will meet the day after Valentines Day. There is certainly no love lost between the two countries, for the most part due to these great battles on the ice in years past.
Best Games between United States vs. Russia Hockey Rivals
1. The Miracle on Ice (1980)
It’s the ultimate underdog tale: a bunch of no-named Americans going up against the juggernaut Soviet Union in the hockey final of the Olympics. No one gave the US a chance, and rightly so. The US team had an average age of only 21, while the Soviets were the reigning and defending four-time Olympic champions.
But with a last-gasp goal by captain Mike Eruzione, they claimed the gold by pulling off the most unforgettable victory in the country’s illustrious sports history. More importantly, this win made the country – and the world – believe in miracles.
2. Semi-finals, 1960 Winter Olympics
Of course, it must never be forgotten that 20 years prior, US hockey believed – and achieved – that same miracle. Similarly up against the odds vs. an all-conquering Soviet Union, whom they had never defeated, the US overcame those odds to reach the finals of the Olympics. They would go on to defeat the Canadians to claim their first ever hockey gold medal.
3. 1988 Winter Olympics
With the collapse of the USSR three years later, the 1988 Winter Olympics would turn out to be the last for the Soviet Union’s storied hockey team. Of course they didn’t know it at the time, but they certainly made it a memorable one.
The CCCP swept the first group stage 5-0-0, scoring 32 goals and allowing just 10. However, they conceded half of those goals in one game – a 7-5 thriller against the USA. The Soviet Union went on to win a 7th and final gold medal.
4. 2009 Under-18 IIHF World Championship
Just like the Olympic triumphs of ’60 and ’80, the US Under-18’s prevailed in the IIHF World Championship as hosts. In fact, it was the first title won on home turf since the Miracle on Ice. But if winning in front of home-ice support wasn’t sweet enough, these kids demolished none other than their good friends from Russia 5-0 in the final.
5. 2014 World Junior Hockey Championship
Think the US-Russia rivalry is as over as the Cold War? Think again.
Just this year, the Russians defeated their old adversaries to claim the World Junior Hockey Championship. But instead of some good ol’ fashioned sportsmanship, the comrades decided to go a different direction: taunting and trolling.
If this is the type of animosity the juniors show to one another, just think of what the two countries will do when they meet in Sochi.
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