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In exhibitions that year, Soviet club teams went 5–3–1 against National Hockey League (NHL) teams, and a year earlier, the Soviet national team had routed the NHL All-Stars 6–0 to win the Challenge Cup.In 1979–80, virtually all the top North American players were Canadians, although the number of U. Olympic team featured several young players who were regarded as highly promising, and some had signed contracts to play in the NHL immediately after the tournament.Through these games, Herb Brooks instilled a European style of play in the American team, emphasizing wide open play with sufficient body contact.He believed it would be the only way for the Americans to compete with the Soviets.The game was also costly for the Americans off-ice, as defenseman Jack O'Callahan pulled a ligament in his knee; however, Brooks kept O'Callahan on the roster which meant virtually playing with only 19 players throughout the tournament.O'Callahan would eventually return for the game against the Soviets playing limited minutes.The day before the match, columnist Dave Anderson wrote in The New York Times, "Unless the ice melts, or unless the United States team or another team performs a miracle, as did the American squad in 1960, the Russians are expected to easily win the Olympic gold medal for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments." Prior to the game, ABC requested that it be rescheduled from p.m. Eastern Time, so that it could be broadcast live in primetime hours. As a result, ABC decided not to broadcast the game live for the U. audience, and tape delayed it for broadcast during its primetime block of Olympics coverage instead.However, the request was declined by the IIHF, after the Soviets complained that it would cause the game to air at 4 a.m. Before the game aired, ABC's Olympics host Jim Mc Kay openly stated that the game had already occurred, but that they had promised not to spoil its results.
In the other group, the Soviets stormed through their opposition undefeated, often by grossly lopsided scores.
For the first game in the medal round, the United States played the Soviets. went on to clinch the gold medal by beating Finland in their final match of the tournament.
achieved several notable results, including a 2–2 draw against Sweden, and a 7–3 upset victory over second-place favorites Czechoslovakia.
The team consisted primarily of professional players with significant experience in international play. The Americans scored two goals against him before he was pulled from the game at the end of the first period.
By contrast, the United States' team—led by head coach Herb Brooks—consisted exclusively of amateur players, and was the youngest team in the tournament and in U. Until 1977, professional players were not able to participate in the World Championship, and it was not until 1988 that they could play in the Winter Olympics.