Tuesday, February 23, 2010

30 Years Ago 11: The Day After

30 years ago today, Saturday, February 23, 1980, American hockey fans were still celebrating the previous day's victory by the U.S. hockey team over the Soviet Union, at the Winter Olympics.

Later on Friday, the other two finalists in the Medal Round, Sweden and Finland, had played to a 3-3 tie. At that point, the Medal Round standings were as follows:

U.S. 1-0-1 (3 points)
USSR 1-1-0 (2 points)
Sweden 0-0-2 (2 points)
Finland 0-1-1 (1 point)

The schedule for Sunday, February 24, called for Finland and the U.S. to face off Sunday morning, followed by a game between the Soviet Union and Sweden.

An American victory would clinch the gold medal. But, if Finland beat the U.S., it was still possible that the Americans could drop to fourth place, and get no medal at all.

Dozens of Finnish players began playing professionally in North America, in the National Hockey League (NHL), during the 1980s. That country's 1980 Olympic team included a 20-year-old right-winger (in the hockey sense; I don't know anything about his politics) named Jari Kurri, who went on to become the most successful player among that early wave of NHL Finns. The American giant-killers faced another tough challenge.

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