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Miracle call of Al Michaels stands as finest in sports history

Miraculous was the first word that came to his mind.

But then the final seconds ticked away, and he realized it was really going to happen and, well, a question became an answer.

“Do you believe in miracles!?”

“Yes!”

Al Michaels is one the most recognizable sportscasters of any era, but of all the memorable and iconic events that he has covered, none stands above how he described the “Miracle on Ice.”

The greatest call in American sports history wasn’t planned.

“It was totally off the top of my head,” Michaels said of his reaction, almost as famous as the U.S. hockey team beating the Soviet Union 4-3 in a medal round game of the 1980 Winter Olympics. “It came from my heart, but I was like everyone else and thought the (Americans) would lose. The United States had no chance. They trailed three separate times in the game.

“They were in it on the scoreboard, but it just didn’t feel as if they were. So it wasn’t until the puck went out to center ice with about six, seven seconds to go in the game that I knew it was over.

“The Russians had been charging the net for several minutes, so I wasn’t going to do something stupid and say it was over and then have them score late. How great would that line have sounded then?”

Michaels will be in Las Vegas this week as part of a 40-year anniversary celebration of the 1980 gold medalists, joining members of the Miracle team being hosted and honored by the Golden Knights.

Michaels, who was 35 when he offered those celebrated words, has a broadcasting resume that spans 10 Super Bowls, eight World Series, two NBA Finals and nine Olympics.

But nothing defines his career more than a single moment frozen in time, when in a resort village in upstate New York called Lake Placid a team of college underdogs did the impossible.

“When the United States went ahead 4-3 on Mike Eruzione’s goal with about 10 minutes left, I told myself just to focus and stick to the fundamentals and call the play-by-play,” Michaels said. “It was a small arena — maybe 7,000 to 8,000 people, and 99.999 percent were rooting for the United States and 0.001 percent for the Russians, probably KGB agents. This wasn’t a Super Bowl, where half those in attendance were going to be pissed off if a certain team lost.

“The place was going crazy, and it was rocking and just had a feel to it. You could actually feel the excitement. And then the puck came to center ice and, as someone told me, the 9-year-old in me came out.”

Greatest call ever.

Pretty good for 9.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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