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U.S. said 'no way' to Norway in 1980

30 years ago today, Herb Brooks' squad avoided potential letdown

Tuesday, 02.16.2010 / 12:10 PM / History
Game 1 Review: USA 2, Sweden 2
Game 2 Review: USA 7, Czechoslovakia 3

Over the next two weeks, as current NHL stars compete in the 2010 Olympics at Vancouver, newyorkrangers.com will be looking back to the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team and the role various Rangers Alumni played in capturing the gold medal. We continue this special series with a look back at Team USA's third game, vs. Norway on Feb. 16, 1980.

By Dan David, newyorkrangers.com

When it comes to Scandinavian nations, Sweden has been the hockey king.

The first Norwegian hockey player to play in an NHL All-Star Game was Espen Knutsen. Back when the 1980 Olympics took place, the idea of an All-Star from Norway would have been inconceivable, given that country's historic lack of international success.
To the east of Sweden sits Finland, which might or might not be considered a Scandinavian country, depending on one's historic and cultural point of view. Finland has produced great hockey players, too, and has won several Olympic medals, but it doesn't have any golds like Sweden, and it hasn't supplied as many players to the NHL since Europeans began coming over to North America in force during the 1970s.

To the west sits Norway, a country about half Sweden's size and with a similar language and culture. Norway and Sweden have many things in common, but hockey prowess is not one of them. While Sweden has claimed eight Olympic hockey medals, including two golds, Norway has a grand total of zero medals. Even the former West Germany captured more Olympic hardware than Norway.

At Vancouver this year, Norway takes another shot in its first Olympic appearance since the 1994 Games, when it qualified for the Games simply by being the host nation. Since then, the Norwegians have improved enough to produce an NHL All-Star in Espen Knutsen, but Norway still lags far behind Sweden when it comes to hockey talent.

The 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., were hardly a shining moment in Norwegian hockey history, as Norway would finish 11th out of 12 teams. In its Blue Division, round-robin opener against Czechoslovakia, Norway was crushed 11-0. In its second game against West Germany, Norway was again routed 10-4.

DID YOU KNOW?

• Hall of Fame football quarterback Terry Bradshaw was at the USA-Norway game. At the time, Bradshaw was married to figure skater JoJo Starbuck, and the two were attending the Olympics. Bradshaw was coming off an MVP performance less than a month earlier when he led the Pittsburgh Steelers to victory in Super Bowl XIV.

• The USA-Norway game was played at Lake Placid's 1932 Olympic arena, rather than the more modern field house built for the 1980 Games. Due to scheduling, each team had to play one of its games at the 1932 Arena, which held only 1,400 people. Since Team USA was already a hot item at the Olympics, tickets to this game were extremely hard to get, and there were no shortage of scalpers looking to cash in on the enthusiasm.

• With two seconds left in the second period and a faceoff in the Norwegian zone, USA coach Herb Brooks pulled goaltender Jim Craig for an extra attacker. This was considered radical for a team that was ahead on the scoreboard, but Brooks recognized there was no way Norway could get the puck up ice in time to score.

• Jim Marthinsen, the 23-year-old goaltender who stifled Team USA in the opening period, went on to represent Norway at two more Olympics and was his nation's Player of the Year in 1989 and 1993.

• The Norwegian team featured three teen-agers, including 18-year-old forward Petter Thoresen, who was playing in his first of four Olympics. Thoresen and goaltender Marthinsen were both on Team Norway when the Games were played at Lillehammer in 1994.
Going into their third game against a surging Team USA, the Norwegians were determined not to be embarrassed again, even if it meant focusing only on their own side of the ice. The Americans, coming off an emotional tie with Sweden and a stirring rout of Czechoslovakia, were equally worried about the potential for a letdown against an inferior opponent.

Herb Brooks, the U.S. head coach who would later enter the NHL with the Rangers a year later, was very concerned about his players developing a "cocky" attitude after the first two games. With the victory over Czechoslovakia, it appeared the Americans would coast through their final games against Norway, Romania and West Germany and enter the medal round. These last three teams would have been major underdogs even in a year that didn't feature any "Miracle on Ice."

As it turned out, the first period vs. Norway was exactly the wake-up call Brooks had feared. Bolstered by great goaltending from Jim Marthinsen, the Norwegians shocked the Americans by taking a 1-0 lead on Geir Myhre's 4-on-4 goal at 4:19 of the first period. Myhre's shot was only the second of the game for the Norwegians, who had capitalized on a penalty to Mark Johnson and taken over the momentum three minutes into the game.

Marthinsen was the difference through 20 minutes, as he finished the first period with 16 saves to keep the score 1-0 entering the first intermission.

Trailing the Norwegians could not have been a good feeling, as it undoubtedly stirred memories of the 3-3 exhibition tie with Norway played during the team's pre-Olympic schedule several months earlier. That night, after a sluggish game played in Norway, Brooks kept his players on the ice and skated them hard for an additional 45 minutes as punishment.

With two periods still ahead of them, Brooks reminded his players that they were the better team and needed to focus on the game at hand instead of looking forward to the medal round. His words took hold, and the Americans needed just under five minutes of the middle period to take the lead for good.

Norway's Knut Andresen took a penalty 25 seconds into the second, and U.S. captain Mike Eruzione needed only 16 more seconds to make it a 1-1 game. Mark Johnson followed with an even-strength goal and 4:51 off assists from future Ranger Rob McClanahan and Dave Christian, and it was off to the races for Team USA. Dave Silk, the only Rangers draft pick on the U.S. team, made it 3-1 at 13:31 of the second off an assist from future Blueshirt Mark Pavelich and future Islander Ken Morrow.

Silk picked up his second point at 4:28 of the third period, assisting on Mark Wells' first Olympic goal. Morrow closed out the scoring at 11:29 of the third, and the U.S. was 2-0-1 through its first three games.

After their shaky start, the Americans were so dominant that they limited Norway to only 13 shots at goaltender Jim Craig over the final two periods. Craig's best save came when he robbed Stephen Kjell Foyn on a breakaway early in the second period after Eruzione had tied the score 1-1.

Romania, a nation with even less hockey history than Norway, was up next for the Americans with less than a week left before the start of a medal round that was already all but certain to include Team USA.

USA 5, NORWAY 1

First Period Scoring


1. Norway -- Geir Myhre (Oivind Losamoen), 4:19 (PP)

First Period Penalties

Norway -- Rune Molberg, 1:21
USA -- Mark Johnson, 2:38
Norway -- Rune Molberg, 3:56
USA -- Phil Verchota, 4:39
Norway -- Erik Pedersen, 5:37
USA -- Buzz Schneider, 14:01

Second Period Scoring

2. USA -- Mike Eruzione (unassisted), 0:41 (PP)
3. USA -- Mark Johnson (Rob McClanahan, Dave Christian), 4:51
4. USA -- Dave Silk (Mark Pavelich, Ken Morrow), 13:31

Second Period Penalties

Norway -- Knut Andresen, 0:25
Norway -- Andresen, 10:21
Norway -- Nils Nilsen, 15:44
USA -- Eric Strobel, 16:44

Third Period Scoring

5. USA -- Mark Wells (Silk, Verchota), 4:28
6. USA -- Morrow (McClanahan, Strobel), 11:29

Third Period Penalties

Norway -- Pedersen, 1:55
USA -- Bill Baker, 5:03
Norway -- Myhre, 19:36 (double-minor)
USA -- Bob Suter, 19:36 (double-minor)
USA -- Baker, 19:54

Shots on Goal

USA -- 16-16-11 -- 43
Norway -- 9-7-6 -- 22

Goaltenders: Jim Craig (USA) and Jim Marthinsen (Norway)