Lake Placid paid tribute to one of the greatest Olympic hockey games ever played this weekend. All surviving members of the 1980 Miracle on Ice U.S. men’s hockey team returned to the Adirondack village to remember the event on Saturday.
“It is with great pleasure and pride that we introduce to you the surviving members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team.”
The crowd filling the Herb Brooks arena cheered as each member of the 1980 team was introduced and walked the length of the rink, which is now lined with banners bearing their names. Wearing their hockey jerseys, they spent the evening watching video clips and talking about the historic game and the effort it took to beat the Russians in what’s considered one of sports’ biggest upsets of all-time.
Earlier in the day, team captain and left wing Mike Eruzione said the game endures because it touched the entire nation. “The Patriots win the Super Bowl. People in New England are happy. People in Seattle aren’t. People in California could care less. But when it’s the Olympic Games it’s the nation that feels a part of you. So everybody was on board. I’ve had over the years so many people come up to me and they’ll say I remember was I was when we won. And I went like, we, I didn’t know you were on the team. (Laughter) But that’s what it meant to people. They felt like they were a part of it. They’ll come up and they’ll tell me I remember where I was when. I’m sure we’ve all heard that story - when. I remember where I was when Kennedy was assassinated. I remember where I was when the Challenger blew up. I remember 911. And all of them are negative, sad stories. And ours was a story that was positive and the nation felt a part of it. Maybe that’s why it continues and it’s talked about today.”
The team members talked about their coach Herb Brooks, who died in a car accident in August 2003, and for whom the arena is named. Defenseman Jack O’Callahan looked back to the week prior when they were trounced by the Russian team at Madison Square Garden. “It was a tough game, but I have the same psychology as everybody, and I really think that it just helped us to dial in on what was in front of us. Once we got back to Lake Placid we weren’t thinking okay we’re in the Olympics, what are we going to do? We started thinking okay we’re playing Sweden. Let’s just play Sweden. Tied Sweden. Alright let’s just play the Czechs. It was like boom, boom, boom. And then when we played the Russians. It was like okay we know these guys can kill us, let’s keep it close. I’ll never forget talking to Mark Johnson in the locker room. We’ve just got to keep it close. We can’t let these guys get ahead of us. It was the end of the second period, we’re down one goal, we’re walking around the locker room pacing a little bit. Mark looked at me and said ‘Hey one goal. 20 minutes. He goes this could could be our game.”
Left wing Rob McClanahan: “The fact that we came away and accomplished something that noone expected, including ourselves, when it first started showed me and has taught me that many, many great things can be accomplished if you are prepared. You can sit there and wait for it and it will come and go, but if you prepare for something and you’re motivated to do what you need to do that opportunity when it’s there, you’ll take advantage of it without even knowing and realize it after the fact. The work that we did was work but we were also passionate about the game so we were willing to pay an extra price for that.”
Goaltender Jim Craig is now a motivational speaker. “The documentary 30-30 shows how hard the Russians worked and so Herb’s strategy was we would be in better shape than them. So you can have an idea of how hard this team really worked to get where it was. You know people say it was a miracle. It wasn’t a miracle. It was just really hard work that we committed to.”
“Your legs get tired, but never let go and always keep skating.” Rhea Coad was waiting in line to enter the arena with her friends. They are hockey players and are too young to have seen the game during the ‘80 Olympics. But the movie Miracle and stories about the players have inspired their own play. “I never give up on anything no matter how hard it gets.”
Standing beside her: “I’m Margaret Troiano from Ogdensburg NY. I play center. Obviously I didn’t get to watch it. But the replay in the movie is definitely inspirational. Just watching it gives you goosebumps. Playing hockey it gives you an idea of how they felt and everything like that.”
Returning to Locker Room 5 where the team prepared for the game so many years ago, right wing John Harrington says the night reminded him of how much the game meant to people. “As the years have gone on it’s always been something that’s been special and every four years the Olympics come up and Olympic hockey gets played and it’s easy to remember that the Olympics from 1980 in Lake Placid were such a tremendous experience and a great success. Then in 2003 the movie comes out and it gives another generation an opportunity to learn what happened in 1980. To have young players and young teams be able to see that and use it as motivation it’s amazing. It’s 35 years later and tonight I had goosebumps being in the arena and watching the clips and listening to people talk and hearing things from your teammates talking from their heart.”
Only one player was not in Lake Placid. Defenseman Bob Suter died last September. His jersey was lifted to the arena rafters in tribute.
“Everybody felt a real big loss. He was certainly a big part of this team. It took a real team effort to be successful and Bobby was a big, big part of it. He’s dearly missed. His legacy will live on.”
Several members of the gold-winning Olympic team will return to Lake Placid at the end of March to participate in a Miracle on Ice Fantasy camp.