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Canada's Jim Nill, left, and Ron Davidson embrace after the first Canadian goal in the game against the Soviet Union Feb. 20, 1980, at the Lake Placid Olympic Games. Sunday marks the 35th anniversary of the U.S. beating the Soviet Union in the "Miracle On Ice." Friday marks 35 years since Canada almost pulled off a similar miracle.

Stf/The Canadian Press

Tom Watt still has a video tape of the "Miracle On Ice," with his own voice as part of the soundtrack. One of Canada's coaches during the 1980 Winter Olympics, Watt worked the television broadcast of the legendary game between the United States and Soviet Union after his team didn't reach the medal round.

Two days earlier, Canada fell just short of a miracle of its own. The Canadians blew a two-goal lead to the Soviet Red Army team late in the second period, and a 6-4 loss marked the end of their run in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Thirty-five years later, the rag-tag Americans are being celebrated for one of the most memorable upsets in sports history on their way to an improbable gold medal, while Canada finished a forgettable sixth.

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"We had a better team than [the United States] had," Watt said this week. "There's no question in my mind. But, hey, the Olympic Games are all about being right on the right day."

Back before NHL players took part in the Olympics, Canada's talent-rich team featured 12 future NHL players, including Glenn Anderson (then 19), captain Randy Gregg, Kevin Primeau, Jim Nill and Paul MacLean. They had a winning record over the U.S. in exhibition play but never got to prove that superiority at the Olympics.

Instead, Watt still laments a 150-foot fluke goal by Finland that ultimately cost Canada a spot in the medal round – he remembers the puck sliding past goaltender Bob Dupuis and will "see it till the day I die." Loss to the Finns aside, the Canadians had their own chance to beat the Soviets to move on.

Even though Friday marks 35 years to the day of that game, players remember it like it was yesterday. One player's back spasmed, leading to Alexei Kasatonov's two-on-one goal with 13 seconds left in the second period that cut Canada's lead to one.

"Games are decided in the moment on very small things," said Terry O'Malley, the oldest player on that team at 39.

The "Mighty Red Machine" scored twice more in the first 65 seconds of the third and then twice more after Canada tied it again. As Nill said, "it's a game that could've gone either way."

"I think that game kind of showed that you know what, boy, these guys, they can be beat," said Nill, now the general manager of the Dallas Stars.

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U.S. captain Mike Eruzione learned a lesson about the Soviets from Canada's game.

"I thought the Canadians had them on the ropes and let them off," Eruzione said Wednesday. "In my head, I'm thinking, 'If we ever had them in that position, we wouldn't let them off.'"

The U.S. did just that, taking the lead midway through the third period and finishing off the upset to the sound of broadcaster Al Michaels' call of, "Do you believe in Miracles?"

Gregg is at peace about the defeat 35 years later.

"A loss is never a loss unless you learn something from it, and I think we learned a lot from that," Gregg said, pointing to the many players who went on to have success in hockey and other fields.

Nill is similarly convinced that things worked out for the best. He surmises that he might not have a job in Dallas today had the "Miracle On Ice" not happened.

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"In the end, probably the best thing for hockey was the U.S. team winning, to tell you the truth," Nill said, referencing the Cold War and struggling American economy. "The NHL was big in Canada, it wasn't big in the U.S., and I think when the Americans won, these college kids won, hockey, it gave the people in the U.S. something to grab onto."

Where are they now

Glenn Anderson

Canada's best player went on to a Hall of Fame career and won the Stanley Cup six times.

Jim Nill

Nill played 524 NHL games. Nill won four Cups as a Detroit executive and is now in his second season as general manager of the Dallas Stars.

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Paul MacLean

MacLean played in parts of 11 NHL seasons. He served as an assistant to Mike Babcock in Anaheim and Detroit before coaching the Ottawa Senators. He was fired in December.

Randy Gregg

The captain turned down a deal with the New York Rangers to play at the Olympics. He later won five Cups.

John Devaney

Canada's second-line centre turned down a minor-league contract with the Oilers to go back to the University of Alberta. He never made the NHL but found success as an accountant.

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Tim Watters

The bluliner played 741 NHL games and spent one year as a Bruins assistant coach.

Tom Watt

One of the team's three coaches, Watt has spent the decades since coaching and managing. He's now a scout for the Leafs.

Terry O'Malley

O'Malley never made the NHL but is in the IIHF Hall of Fame.

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