CALGARY -- "Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? YES!! . . . Now we've got bedlam."

ABC's Al Michaels, Feb. 22, 1980

"Eight seconds to the gold medal. Four to the gold medal. This impossible dream comes true!!"

Michaels, Feb. 24, 1980

Eight years ago at Lake Placid, Al Michaels' Impossible Dream Miracle Weekend helped push his broadcasting career skyward. Remarkably, he'd hardly ever done hockey before calling the U.S. team's gold medal journey, and as he prepares to do the U.S. team's opening round game Saturday night against Austria, hockey remains only an Olympic pursuit for him.

Once every four years, Michaels becomes America's most-watched hockey announcer. In between, he remains among the best baseball and football network play-by-play broadcasters around.

"I find it very, very amusing to be best noted for doing a sport that I've rarely done and barely done," Michaels said. "I found it incredibly ironic that hockey {pushed him into the national spotlight}. What was unbelievably ironic was that people would come up to me in airports the next summer and say, 'Hey, we didn't know you did baseball, too.' "

At that point, Michaels had been a major league baseball broadcaster for six years and had done the World Series for ABC in 1979.

Michaels' only hockey assignment before the 1980 Games was at the 1972 Games when, as a free-lancer for NBC, he called the Soviet Union-Czechoslovakia gold medal game. Since 1980, his only hockey assignments have been the 1984 Games and here in Calgary (although he did three Team USA games for the Freedom Sports Network earlier this year to prepare for the Olympics).

"The only hockey I've ever done is Olympic hockey," said Michaels, sounding a bit incredulous even as he said it.

Between Olympics, Michaels' hockey interest pretty much is limited to checking the NHL standings from time to time. The best chance of catching him at a hockey match would be if it were scheduled between games of a baseball doubleheader.

Although a hockey broadcasting novice, Michaels benefits from the facts that he followed the sport closely growing up in Brooklyn and that Olympic hockey is different from NHL hockey.

"You can't do Olympic hockey the way you do the NHL. It's a whole different audience," he said. "You have to educate them, personalize the players a great deal, not call the game like it was the NHL on ESPN. I have the ability to do it the ABC way; it would take me a while to learn to call NHL games real well for an NHL audience."

In the United States' 4-3 semifinal victory over the Soviets, Michaels' game-closing "Do you believe in miracles?" exclamation was "totally spontaneous," he said. He wasn't aware of the impact of the line until he got back to the hotel and people were talking about it.

Less than 48 hours later, the Americans played Finland for the gold medal.

"Someone came up to me as I'm going to the game," Michaels recalled, "and asked, 'What are you going to say at the end of the game?' I'm thinking, 'This is ridiculous. People are expecting another line.' I didn't dwell on it, though."

"Well, {ABC anchor} Jim McKay comes on before the game and says something like, 'This is a dream, this was an impossibility.' The words stayed with me. As the third period wore on . . . I began thinking about McKay's words and I decided to tie in to what he had opened with."

Thus, "the impossible dream" line as the United States won, 4-2.

Michaels said he does not prepare lines for particular moments. "I can't do that," he said. "It wouldn't sound spontaneous. It just wouldn't work."

But recently he was tempted, on the spur of the moment, to use a variation on the miracle theme.

"I almost did it at the Super Bowl {in which the Redskins beat the Broncos, 42-10}. I was going to do a parody of myself. Early on, I had said, 'This might be the Super Bowl we've waited 22 years for.' Of course, the game then disintegrates and becomes a blowout, and I was going to go, 'Hey, folks, this was the guy who said this was the game we've been waiting for. Do you believe in miracles? No!' "

Michaels knows if the U.S. hockey team were to do the improbable again, the miracle this time would be if he could say anything to equal the impact of '80. "People remember how good it felt, and they want to feel good again," he said. "But it can't happen again. It wouldn't be the same. The first time is always the best."