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Re-live the hockey game that changed the world

February 5, 2015
Editorial , Lake Placid News

There's no doubt the "Miracle on Ice" hockey game between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games changed the world, at least for Americans, yet it did much more for the tiny village of Lake Placid.

For residents and visitors - and for our nation - the American 4-3 victory over a dominant Soviet team became a symbol of hope, a record of pride and an underdog story for the ages. By the end of the day on Feb. 22, 1980, we knew as human beings that we could do anything if we worked hard enough and persevered. Sports Illustrated named it the Top Sports Moment of the 20th Century.

That hockey game gave the Olympic Village a marketing tool that continues to draw tourists like a magnet. Was it a divine gift? Probably not. More likely, it was just one of those sports moments that unfolded when good old-fashioned grit - and great coaching - wins the day.

Article Photos

The U.S. hockey team celebrates after beating the Soviet Union 4-3 in the “Miracle on Ice” game Feb. 22, 1980 during the Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid.
(Photo — ORDA)

To appreciate the profound effect this hockey game had on Lake Placid, we need to ask one question: "What would life be like without the Miracle?"

Wow. Imagine if the U.S. team lost the game and didn't go on to beat Finland 4-2 to capture the gold medal.

This was the height of the Cold War. President Jimmy Carter was in the White House, dealing with a three-month-old hostage crisis in Iran. Americans were considering boycotting the 1980 Olympic Summer Games in Moscow because the Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan less than two months earlier. Military tensions were high. The economy was a bust. The U.S. was experiencing another oil crisis in the wake of the Iranian situation. In March 1979, a partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania scared everybody.

We needed a feel-good story to lift our spirits, and when Americans are looking for a drug-free high, many turn to sports. The Winter Olympics were on U.S. soil in 1980 and provided a unique opportunity for us to feel good about ourselves again. All eyes were on Lake Placid in New York's Adirondack Mountains. American athletes were carrying the torch of hope for the entire nation.

When we watch sports, really watch them, we experience the emotional highs and lows along with the athletes. We live vicariously through their competition. When they lose, we lose. When they win, we win.

At the 1980 games, we were looking for an emotional pick-me-up in the form of medals, and the athletes didn't disappoint. In all, the U.S. tallied 12 medals.

When Linda Fratianne earned a silver medal and Charles Tickner got the bronze in the singles figure skating competitions, we won those medals along with them at the Olympic Fieldhouse. We were with Phil Mahre on the slopes of Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington, winning a silver medal in the slalom race. We were with Leah Poulos-Mueller at the Olympic Speedskating Oval when she won two silver medals and with Beth Heiden when she won a bronze in the 3,000-meter event. We were with 21-year-old Eric Heiden when he won an unprecedented five speedskating gold medals at the Oval, setting four Olympic records and one world record. That, in itself, would have been enough to lift a nation out of despair.

And we had the Miracle on Ice. It was one of those "Where were you?" moments. Where were you during the Miracle on Ice? Everybody who lived through those Olympics has their own story.

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul recently visited the home of the Miracle on Ice, the 1980 Rink Herb Brooks Arena at the Olympic Center. On Feb. 22, 1980, she was working as a waitress at Varsity Pizza in Syracuse as a Syracuse University student.

"I was the one who got to call out the numbers when your pizza was done, so I had a microphone," she said Jan. 22 at the Lake Placid Olympic Museum. "Instead of calling out the numbers when the pizzas were done, I was calling out the play-by-play of this game, so I felt part of it in my own way."

Hochul said she would never forget that day, especially after the U.S. team won the game.

"It was wild. It was absolutely wild," Hochul said. "People were pouring into the streets and holding American flags. It was just a fantastic feeling. ... And I loved the movie when it came out so other generations could appreciate what went on here. This is my first time seeing the ice, and it felt magical. Something very, very special here happened. It inspired us at a time when our country was having a lot of international challenges."

If there was no Miracle on Ice, Lake Placid would probably spend more time promoting what made Lake Placid great during its first Olympic Winter Games in 1932: speedskating. Instead of celebrating the 1980 U.S. hockey team, we'd be spending more time celebrating the accomplishments and legacy of Eric Heiden, who was a bona fide superstar during those games. Instead of a Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp to celebrate the 35th anniversary, we may have an Eric Heiden Speedskating Fantasy Camp. If there was no Miracle, Americans would lean more on the story of Heiden's five gold medals.

Yet the Miracle on Ice did happen, and we are thankful - to coach Herb Brooks and the entire team for their win and to New York state, its Olympic Regional Development Authority and Lake Placid residents for keeping that legacy alive.

Now it's your turn to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the hockey game that changed the world by attending the "Re-live the Miracle" event at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21 in the 1980 Rink. Using video, audio and photos, members of the U.S. team will reunite and share their memories of the Miracle on Ice game. During the evening, team member Bob Suter's No. 20 jersey will be raised to the rafters. Suter died in September at the age of 57 and was the first playing member of the 1980 team to die. Coach Brooks died in 2003. The cost is $19.80 for general admission and $250 for VIP admission.

If the reunion isn't enough, you can upgrade your experience and attend the Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp with part of the 1980 hockey team from March 29 to April 2. The 11 team members, including captain Mike Eruzione, will be coaches during the camp. The cost is $5,995.

If you are experiencing sticker shock, there are a couple of less expensive ways to celebrate the Miracle on Ice. See some of the artifacts from the game at the Lake Placid Olympic Museum. The cost is $7 for adults, $5 for senior and students, and free for kids 6 and under.

Or visit the 1980 Rink for free.

Learn more about the Miracle on Ice events and the 1980 Olympic venues online at ORDA's website, www.whiteface.com.

 
 

 

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