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The team consisted primarily of professional players with significant experience in international play. The Americans scored two goals against him before he was pulled from the game at the end of the first period.By contrast, the United States' team—led by head coach Herb Brooks—consisted exclusively of amateur players, and was the youngest team in the tournament and in U. Until 1977, professional players were not able to participate in the World Championship, and it was not until 1988 that they could play in the Winter Olympics.
Brooks had to select from 68 players who started the tryout. As forward John Harrington said, "He knew exactly where to quit.From the start of the exhibitions, he conducted the team through skating windsprints consisting of end line to blue line and back, then end line to red line and back, then end line to far blue line and back, and finally end line all the way down and back. Brooks had them skate Herbies after the game, and after a while, the lights were turned off by custodians and the practice continued in the dark.Near the end of the exhibition season, although he had supported them throughout, Brooks threatened because of subpar play to cut Eruzione (the captain) and replace Craig as the starting goalie with Steve Janaszak.They were led by legendary players in world ice hockey, such as Boris Mikhailov (a top line right winger and team captain), Vladislav Tretiak (the consensus best goaltender in the world at the time), the speedy and skilled Valeri Kharlamov, as well as talented, young, and dynamic players such as defenseman Viacheslav Fetisov and forwards Vladimir Krutov and Sergei Makarov.From that team, Tretiak, Kharlamov, Makarov, and Fetisov would eventually be enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame. head coach Herb Brooks had tryouts in Colorado Springs in the summer of 1979.He'd push you right to the limit where you were ready to say, 'I've had it, I'm throwing it in'—and then he'd back off." Brooks continued the organization by campaigning for the players' selection of Eruzione as the captain, and Craig had been the goalie for him in the 1979 World Championship tournament.
The Soviet and American teams were natural rivals due to the decades-old Cold War.
The game was also costly for the Americans off-ice, as defenseman Jack O'Callahan pulled a ligament in his knee; however, Brooks kept O'Callahan on the roster which meant virtually playing with only 19 players throughout the tournament.
O'Callahan would eventually return for the game against the Soviets playing limited minutes.
Through these games, Herb Brooks instilled a European style of play in the American team, emphasizing wide open play with sufficient body contact.
He believed it would be the only way for the Americans to compete with the Soviets.
Many of the Soviet players had gained attention in the Summit Series eight years previous and, in contrast to the American players, were seasoned veterans with long histories of international play. Of the 20 players who eventually made the final Olympic roster, Buzz Schneider was the only one returning from the 1976 Olympic team.