The Yanks held on to win, despite being outshot 39-16. The Soviets, who had an unbeaten streak of 16 straight Olympic matches, watched the place turn into one giant U.S. flag, and then turned and trudged into the world's quietest locker room. "If a mosquito had landed, we would've heard it," says Makarov. Yeah, until Tikhonov started screaming, "You were s—-!"
When the Soviet Olympic contingent's plane landed in Moscow, the gold-medal athletes were welcomed and paraded before a gathering of fans and media. The hockey team was taken through a back door of the airport. In America the upset was hailed as the greatest sports moment of the 20th century. In the U.S.S.R. it went over like watered-down vodka.
Sovietsky Sport carried only the box score and a brief account of the game, but everyone knew. The loss had occurred on Feb. 23, Moscow time—Red Army Day, a national holiday. It was as if the Dream Team had lost on Memorial Day.
Some players were booted off the Soviet national team, which didn't mean just the loss of a jersey. It was the loss of your car, your decent apartment and your very own refrigerator. Starting at left wing for Siberia....
Soviet or former Soviet nation teams won the next three world championships and the next three Olympics. Lake Placid was like the lone zit on Heather Locklear, the one comic book in which Superman dies. "In Russia, we have a saying," says Makarov. "Once a year, even the vacuum cleaner can shoot like a rifle."
And once every 20 years, even the Russians can suck.