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ORDA makes ‘Miracle’ memories at fourth annual fantasy camp

April 6, 2018
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Sixty-four hockey players from around the world made a pilgrimage to Lake Placid for the 4th annual Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp, which was held between Sunday, March 25 and Wednesday, March 28.

They were coached by members of the 1980 U.S. hockey team who beat the Soviet Union in the "Miracle on Ice" game on their way to a gold medal at the XIII Olympic Winter Games. Campers played in the same rink the Olympians earned their fame and in the same arena now named for 1980 Coach Herb Brooks, who died in 2003.

"On behalf of the team, we all feel very proud 38 years later," said 1980 Olympian and fantasy camp Commissioner Mark Wells on Monday, March 26 prior to the draft. "We're happy we have the opportunity to come back to the place where we beat one of the greatest teams in the world ... not knowing that we'd be here 38 years later."

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The state Olympic Regional Development Authority held its first Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp in 2015, a couple months after the 1980 players attended their 35th anniversary reunion.

The 14 Olympians from the 20-member 1980 U.S. team who participated in this year's fantasy camp were: Neal Broten, Red team coach; Dave Christian, Red team player/coach; John Harrington, Gold team coach; Steve Janaszak; Mark Johnson, Red team player/coach; Ken Morrow, White team coach; Rob McClanahan, Gold team player/coach; Mike Eruzione, Blue team coach; Mark Pavelich, Blue team player/coach; Mike Ramsey, Blue team coach; Buzz Schneider, White team player/coach; Dave Silk, White team coach; Eric Strobel, assistant commissioner; and Mark Wells, commissioner.

In addition, Ralph Cox was added to the line-up. He was the 1979 ECAC Player of the Year at the University of New Hampshire and a member of the 1979 U.S. national team. He suffered a broken ankle in a game against Poland one month before the Olympic team tryouts, and he was the final player Coach Brooks cut before the Olympic tournament. Cox played seven seasons of professional hockey and joined the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins as a scout, where he won two Stanley Cup rings, in 1991 and 1992.

The 1980 team's assistant, coach Craig Patrick, who participated in last year's fantasy camp along with the team's athletic trainer, Gary Smith, did not return this year.

The other five surviving 1980 players not present were Bill Baker, Jim Craig, Steve Christoff, Jack O'Callahan and Phil Verchota. The 20th member of the team - Bob Suter - died of a heart attack in September 2014. His jersey was retired to the rafters over the 1980 Rink during the 35th anniversary celebration on Feb. 21, 2015.

With 1980s rock music filling the Olympic Center during every break in action, the fantasy camp is treated like a real professional hockey season, only boiled down to three days of intensity.

First, campers skated on the ice Monday morning so the Olympians could evaluate their skills and make their picks. In the afternoon, they held a draft.

"We are living, still to this day, as players from the 1980 Miracle on Ice team," Wells said in his opening remarks at the draft. "We still feel the same about each other. We'll probably die together."

In the first round, the 64 campers were selected to one of four teams: Red, White, Blue and Gold. In the second round, some of the 1980 players were named to teams. After being drafted, campers signed contracts. Janaszak sat at the table with Wells and Strobel during the draft to help with the contracts.

After the draft, the teams met and changed their names. Team White became Morrow's Marauders. Team Blue was Code Blue. Team Gold was Gold School. And Team Red was Mean Girlz. After their meeting, the players participated in practice time on the ice. In the evening, each team went to a different Lake Placid restaurant for a private team-bonding experience.

Campers played three games each for the regular season - on Tuesday morning and afternoon and on Wednesday morning. After the bronze-medal game Wednesday afternoon, it was time for the gold-medal game, the medal ceremony and the official fantasy camp photo on the ice.

Team Red won the gold medal this year while Team Gold picked up the silver, Team White earned the bronze, and Team Blue came in fourth place.

Of the 64 campers, 44 were returning players and 20 rookies. They wanted to re-live the U.S. hockey team's 4-3 "Miracle on Ice" win over the Soviet Union on Feb. 22, 1980.

In 2016, Sports Illustrated placed the Miracle on Ice game at the top of the 100 Greatest Moments in Sports History, a list of moments they called "the most pivotal, influential and memorable of all time." That honor came 17 years after the magazine named the Miracle on Ice the Top Sports Moment of the 20th Century.

In 2015, former ORDA Director of Events Katie Million organized the first MOI Fantasy Camp with ORDA Director of Corporate Development and Events Jeff Potter. Although she left ORDA in 2016, moving to Minnesota to become the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's vice president and Women's League commissioner, she still returns to Lake Placid every spring co-direct the camp with Potter.

The cost for the fantasy camp, as listed on the camp website, is $6,795 for forward/defense rookies and $6,295 for goalie rookies. Players must be at least 21 years of age to participate in the camp.



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