“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work.” – Vince Lombardi
Definition: The combined action of a group of people, especially when effective and efficient.
The greatest teams of all time are comprised of individuals that put aside their selfish wants and needs to come together for a common cause. There may be no greater story of teamwork than the United States Olympic Hockey team of 1980. This team was made up of college players from all over the US, but was so lacking in stars that head coach Herb Brooks was widely criticized by hockey experts for picking a team that lacked any big stars. Brooks purposely picked players that worked hard and were team players rather than record setting scorers or players that had accumulated lots of big statistical numbers.
Many of the experts predicted the US team would finish last in the Olympic tournament. Russia entered the tournament as the heavy favorites, having won every ice hockey gold medal but one since 1956. The Russian team was made up of professionals that played year round with each other, some having played together for more than 10 years. They trained in world class facilities, had the best food and were able to travel the world to play. The US team were young amateurs who were brought together just for the Olympics and had played together for just a few short months.
In exhibition games that year, the Russian teams had crushed most of the US professional NHL teams and even beat the NHL All-stars 6-0. On February 8th less than a month before the Olympics, the Russians played the US Olympic team at Madison Square Garden. The Russians dominated from the opening puck drop in route to a blowout 10-3 win. No one gave the American team any chance of beating the Russians or even challenging for an Olympic Medal.
In the first round the American team tied a weak Sweden team by scoring a lucky goal with just 27 seconds left to play. Slowly but surely the Americans gained more confidence as they surprised everyone by winning their next 4 games. It set up an unlikely showdown against the invincible Russian team. Even the most loyal US fans didn’t think the American amateurs had any chance to win the big game. The Russians had won their games by the scores of: 16-0, 17-4, 8-1, 4-2 and 6-4. The day before the match, writer Dave Anderson wrote in the NY Times “Unless the ice melts, the Russians are expected to easily win the Olympic gold medal for the sixth time in the last seven tournaments.”
The US team went on to win against the Russians in a game most sports historians claim to be the greatest upset in the history of ALL sports. The US team trailed until just 8 minutes left in the game. This team of amateurs playing together as a team upset possibly one of the most talented hockey teams of all time and went on to win the gold medal.