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Relive the Miracle Saturday in Lake Placid

Reunion to include all surviving hockey players from 1980

February 19, 2015
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor (aflynn@lakeplacidnews.com) , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Jeff Holbrook was a 13-year-old hockey player from the Finger Lakes in 1980 when the underdog U.S. hockey team beat the powerful Soviet Union team 4-3 in what became known as the "Miracle on Ice."

Shortly after supper on Friday, Feb. 22, 1980, Holbrook was in the arcade with his friends while Lake Placid was hosting the XIII Olympic Winter Games and making headlines around the world. The Americans had already won, but the game wouldn't be broadcast on ABC television until the evening.

"I remember somebody running into the arcade and screaming, 'We beat the Russians!'" Holbrook said. "And looking at the TV, and the game was coming up, and running home to watch it. So I was in Dansville, New York, playing Space Invaders with my friends and was absolutely out-of-my-mind excited."

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 — Lake Placid Olympic Museum)

This weekend, Holbrook will be rubbing elbows with those U.S. hockey players as the surviving 19 members of the gold medal team convene for a reunion at the Olympic Center. Two days after the U.S. beat the Soviets, they earned the gold medal in a 4-2 game against Finland.

Holbrook, of the Potentia Athletic Partners sports marketing agency, has been working with state Olympic Regional Development Authority staff and team members to orchestrate the "Relive the Miracle" 35th anniversary reunion, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21 in the Herb Brooks Arena, named after the U.S. team's coach.

"It may very well be the last time it does happen and the only time it happens, and I'm glad that I can be a part of it and part of the group that's driving it," Holbrook said.

In addition to Coach Brooks, who died in 2003, the only member of the team who won't be in attendance on Saturday is Bob Suter, who died in September 2014 at the age of 57. He was the first member of the team to pass away, and his jersey will be raised to the rafters of the 1980 Rink during the multimedia program.

ORDA Communications Manager Jon Lundin expects about 5,000 people to attend the event, which is receiving a lot of media attention around the world. The New York City-based Daily News, for example, has been re-running its U.S. hockey team coverage from the 1980 Olympics to celebrate the Miracle on Ice anniversary.

"The number of phone calls I've received from national and international media, people are really getting a sense that this could be another historic moment," Lundin said. "I've been on the phone with 'Fox & Friends,' ESPN and the BBC all wanting to be part of this."

Relive the Miracle will be hosted by 11-time Emmy Award winner Todd Walsh, who will bring the audience back in time to Feb. 22, 1980 through segments and programs titled "The Journey," "The Steps," "The Miracle" and "The Gold."

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Hockey team

The 19 members of the 1980 U.S. hockey team who will be attendance are Bill Baker, Neal Broten, Dave Christian, Jim Craig, Steve Christoff, Mike Eruzione, John Harrington, Steve Janaszek, Mark Johnson, Rob McClanahan, Ken Morrow, Jack O'Callahan, Mark Pavelich, Mike Ramsey, Buzz Schneider, Dave Silk, Eric Strobel, Phil Verchota and Mark Wells.

Six members of the team have been inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, including Coach Brooks in 1990, and the entire team was enshrined in the hall in 2003.

Ken Morrow helped the New York Islanders win four Stanley Cups in the 1980s and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995.

Neal Broten was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2000 and played 17 seasons in the National Hockey League, winning a Stanley Cup with the New Jersey Devils in 1995 after spending 13 seasons with the Minnesota North Stars and another year with the Stars after the team moved to Dallas. He was traded to the Devils in 1995 and split his final season, 1996-97, with three teams: the Devils, LA Kings and Stars.

Mike Ramsey was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001. He spent 13 seasons with the Buffalo Sabres before joining the Pittsburgh Penguins and then the Detroit Red Wings, where he retired in 1996.

Mark Johnson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2004. He scored two of the four U.S. goals during the Miracle on Ice game. Johnson represented the U.S. in more than a dozen international competitions before joining the NHL, where he played on five teams: the Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota North Stars, Hartford Whalers, St. Louis Blues and New Jersey Devils. He coached the U.S. women's national ice hockey team to a silver-medal win during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, and has been the head coach for the University of WisconsinMadison women's ice hockey team since 2002. Johnson was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame in 1999 along with the Miracle team's goalie Jim Craig and Coach Brooks.

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Player spotlight

Dave Christian was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame in 2001. Born in Warroad, Minnesota - aka "Hockeytown USA" - Christian's father Bill and uncle Roger were members of the U.S. hockey team that won the gold medal in 1960 during the Olympic Winter Games in Squaw Valley, California.

Speaking by phone from Minnesota, Christian was asked how the Miracle on Ice changed his life.

"I'm not sure," he said. "It maybe gave me an opportunity to have a career in hockey. I played my first professional game a week later."

The Winnipeg Jets drafted Christian in 1979, and he began playing for the team a week after the Miracle on Ice. He spent four seasons in Winnipeg and six with the Washington Capitals before joining the Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. Christian ended his professional hockey career with two seasons on the Minnesota Moose of the International Hockey League, retiring in 1996.

He said the Miracle on Ice game and subsequent win against Finland gave players on the team a chance to jump start their careers in the NHL. It also put the U.S. hockey team on the front pages of newspapers throughout the world.

While he's not sure if the Miracle on Ice changed the game of hockey in the U.S., he said it certainly raised the awareness of hockey among the youth in America.

"I think it piqued the interest of young kids to decide whether hockey was a sport they wanted to play," Christian said.

Given his experience with the Olympics and the NHL, Christian said his top piece of advice for young hockey players is, "Prepare yourself. You never know when an opportunity will arise. True to Brooks's words, great moments come from great opportunity."

Christian and his 1980 Olympic teammates continually hear people's answers to the question, "Where were you during the Miracle on Ice?" But it doesn't bother him.

"We never get tired of hearing them," Christian said. "People relate where they were, what they were doing. That doesn't get old. That game, and people relaying the story, always brings a smile to everyone's face."

After all, Christian knows exactly where he was during the Miracle on Ice hockey game. Right here in Lake Placid, fighting the Soviets on the ice in the Olympic Fieldhouse.

And that's exactly where he will be almost 35 years later during Saturday's Relive the Miracle reunion.

General admission tickets to the event are $19.80 and can be purchased through the Olympic Center box office by calling 518-523-3330. VIP tickets are available for $250 by calling 518-302-5375. Doors will be open at 6:30 p.m., and the program will begin at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit online at www.whiteface.com.

 
 
 

 

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