Often times, the game after The Game is the biggest one. Today is the 30th anniversary of one such time.
Following The Miracle On Ice, Team USA had to come back two days later and play Finland for the gold medal in the 1980 Olympic Hockey Tournament. The format was a round robin, with previous games carried over. That meant the United States had three points (win and tie vs. Sweden), USSR had two points (win and loss), and Sweden had two points (two ties). Finland with one point (loss and tie) was all but eliminated.
The United States played first, knowing that a win clinched the gold. If they tied or lost, and the Soviets defeated Sweden in the second game, USSR would win the gold. If the US lost gold, they knew the Miracle On Ice would be a historical footnote, not a chapter. With the US losing 2-1 to Finland after two periods, US coach Herb Brooks famously told his players, "If you lose this game, you'll take it to your fucking graves. Your fucking graves." The Americans came out and scored three goals in the third period, including this game winner, for a 4-2 win. The Soviets eventually defeated Sweden 9-2 for the silver and Sweden won bronze.
This afternoon, when the US plays stubborn Switzerland in the 2010 Olympic Hockey Tournament, the US will face similar pressure as the 1980 team did. Defeating Canada on their own soil and sending them into a death match with Russia tonight is nice, but it will mean jack squat if the Americans fail to medal. The US has to keep winning, otherwise they will never forgive themselves for defeating the best team in the world and failing to win what matters most.