New Jersey Devils: How 1980 Miracle Helped Them Grow

1998 Season: Neal Broten of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images)
1998 Season: Neal Broten of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios/Getty Images) /

The 1980 USA Olympic Hockey team shaped history in many ways. It also helped the New Jersey Devils grow as a franchise in the aftermath.

The Miracle On Ice took place a remarkable 40 years ago today. That is a moment in hockey history that is celebrated as much as any moment in the history of the sport. The New Jersey Devils were one of many teams that benefited from that historic group of American college players taking down the machine that was the Soviet Union’s men’s ice hockey team.

When you think about it, that victory really was a miracle. A comparison would be if today’s college all stars went on to defeat a team comprised of Artemi Panarin, Nikita Kucherov, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, and Vladimir Tarasenko among others. It simply wouldn’t happen and if it somehow did, it would be against all odds.

The Devils have benefited from this Team USA win in many ways over the years. It happened on February 22nd, 1980 and then the New Jersey Devils showed up in the fall of 1982. First off, there were two pretty significant players who suited up for the Devils that played for that team. Neal Broten and Jack O’Callahan each suited up for the Devils at different points of their NHL careers.

Broten won the Stanley Cup with New Jersey in 1995. He played in 88 regular season games over three seasons where he scored 15 goals and 37 assists for 52 points. He was extra special in that one playoff season as he had seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 20 playoff games en route to hoisting the Cup. He was without question a big part of the Devils team that brought New Jersey it’s first-ever Stanley Cup.

O’Callahan was one of the more intriguing characters in the movie adaptation of the event and he was also a pretty key player to his team. He also played for the New Jersey Devils for two seasons. In 86 games, he had 12 goals and 40 assists for 52 points in 86 games. His seven-year NHL career was a nice run.

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The Devils also once had head coach Herb Brooks in the building, who was the head coach of that Team USA team. He coached the team to a then record 40 wins back in 1992-93, before he quit on the Devils in the middle of the offseason. It’s a strange fact about the Devils history, but just look at this from the Chicago Tribune back in 1993. Jacques Lemaire took over for Brooks that offseason, took the Devils to the Eastern Conference Finals that season, then to the Stanley Cup in 1995. Who knows what would have happened if Brooks stuck around, but it definitely had an impact on the New Jersey Devils.

The miracle also impacted the future of the organization as far as the players that would be great for them. Once the 1980 American team won the Olympic Gold Medal, the hockey world started to realize that the American boys can play. Since then, American studs like Zach Parise, Brian Rafalski, Brian Gionta, Kyle Palmieri, and Jack Hughes have graced the Devils sweater.

It was a miracle that the country needed to have back in 1980 for a lot of different reasons. It was a lot more than just a hockey game when they defeated the Soviets before the Finnish to win the gold. It is also fun to look back and see how it has impacted the Devils and the rest of the league.