The 'Miracle on Ice' refers to one of the ice hockey games played during the medal round of the 1980 winter olympics at Lake Placid, New York between the USA and the Soviet Union. The US team was made up of amateur and collegiate players who ended up defeating the professional Soviet Union team, who had won nearly every world championship tournament since 1954.
The picture is iconic for a number of reasons. The fact that the 'underdog' prevailed during this important sporting event (hence, the 'miracle') gives the population that witnessed it or remember it hope and pride, as all success stories do. The implications of the picture and what the US population was experiencing at the time was much deeper than purely sporting prowess. After WW2, relation with the Soviet Union had not been wholly positive. During the 1980's the Cold War was in full effect, with both the US and the Soviet Union attempting to out-do one another and become the most powerful nation in the world. Although neither nation participated in out-right hostile physical war, other tactics had been used, such as psychological warfare, espionage, propaganda and the space race in order to get the upper hand on the other.
This game represented the US defeating the Soviet Union (albeit in a ice hockey match) and because of this, the result and match was a much publicised event, which was celebrated outlandishly after the USA had won.
The picture is iconic as it shows the defeat of the Soviet Union, which at the time was the US's number one goal (in terms of dominance). It signifies a crushing blow to the communist regime that was the USSR and a victory for the American's over their 'enemy'. The picture shows a united, elated team of players revelling in the fact that they have triumphed over the Soviets. It also captures the American peoples' fantasy of seeing a dejected, defeated Soviet Union, as metaphorically shown by the Soviets' goalie.
Also in the media, the US team received Sports Illustrated's 'Sportsmen of the year' award. In 2004 ESPN declared the event as the top sports headline moment, and game between 1979-2004. This may have been down to the incredible comeback orchestrated by the US in an important sporting event, but is more likely the result of an 'underdog' (US) defeating the seemingly undefeatable 'Soviet Union empire', during a period where relations between the two nations were far from positive.