In 1979–80, virtually all the top North American players were Canadians, although the number of U. Olympic team featured several young players who were regarded as highly promising, and some had signed contracts to play in the NHL immediately after the tournament.S.-born professional players had been on the rise throughout the 1970s. In September 1979, before the Olympics, the American team started exhibition play.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.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.
In order to accommodate coverage of the men's slalom competition, portions of the game were also edited for time.
Brooks had to select from 68 players who started the tryout. As forward John Harrington said, "He knew exactly where to quit.
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.
In the other group, the Soviets stormed through their opposition undefeated, often by grossly lopsided scores.
They defeated Japan 16–0, the Netherlands 17–4, Poland 8–1, Finland 4–2, and Canada 6–4 to easily qualify for the next round, although both the Finns and the Canadians gave the Soviets tough games for two periods. and Soviet teams prepared for the medal round in different ways. coach Herb Brooks, however, continued with his tough, confrontational style, skating hard practices and berating his players for perceived weaknesses and to build stamina.