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Annual Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp canceled for 2020

Linda Koenig chats with 1980 Olympians Dave Christian and John Harrington after the gold-medal game during the 2019 Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp at Lake Placid’s Olympic Center. (News photo — Andy Flynn)

LAKE PLACID — The 6th annual Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp was recently canceled after being postponed once already due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp Facebook page announced July 3 that the camp would be held next year from May 2 to 6. It was originally scheduled for May 3 to 7 this year and postponed until Aug. 31 to Sept. 4, just in case COVID-19 restrictions eased by later in the summer.

“We all look forward to that time when we can meet again and maybe even hug again,” the Facebook page stated.

This year’s 65 spots sold out quickly as it is the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice game between the U.S. Olympic hockey team and the heavily favored Soviet Union squad. The U.S. players won 4-3 on Feb. 22, 1980, earning them a shot at the gold medal game against Finland two days later, which they won 4-2.

Lake Placid celebrated the 40th anniversary of the 1980 Olympic Winter Games in February, but the MOI team was not in attendance. Seventeen of the 19 surviving players celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice in Las Vegas, hosted by the Vegas Golden Knights National Hockey League team. William “Buzz” Schneider, however, did stop by the Lake Placid Center for the Arts on Feb. 17 to take part in a roundtable discussion with local Olympians and Olympic hopefuls.

“It’s special coming back, and what we did here is really special for all of us players and Herb Brooks, and we never really realized the impact that we were doing around the country when we started our quest for a gold medal,” Schneider said on Feb. 17.

The annual Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp began in the spring of 2015 shortly after the team’s 35th anniversary event at the Olympic Center’s Herb Brooks Arena, where they won their 1980 games. Men and women from around the world take part in the camp, where they are coached by and play with some members of the 1980 team.

For the most part, the fantasy camp is treated like a real professional hockey season, only boiled down to three days of intensity.

Campers skate on the Olympic Center ice on a Monday morning so members of the 1980 U.S. hockey team can evaluate their skills. The Olympians then conduct a draft Monday afternoon, selecting players to fill four teams: Red, White, Blue and Gold. After the teams are filled, had their team meetings, and name their teams, the players participate in practice time on the ice. Then they spend the next two days in a tournament to decide who gets the gold, medal and silver medals.

Thirteen members of the 1980 team participated in the camp in 2019: Bill Baker, Neal Broten, Dave Christian, Mike Eruzione, John Harrington, Steve Janaszak, Mark Johnson, Rob McClanahan, Ken Morrow, Mike Ramsey, Buzz Schneider, Eric Strobel and Mark Wells. Living teammates who did not attend were Steve Christoff, Jim Craig, Jack O’Callahan, Mark Pavelich, Dave Silk and Phil Verchota. Defenseman Bob Suter died of a heart attack in September 2014.

The Miracle on Ice hockey game took place during the Cold War. There was economic and political turmoil in the U.S. There was a worldwide oil crisis. The American embassy in Tehran, Iran, was overtaken on Nov. 4, 1979, and 52 diplomats and citizens were taken hostage. On Christmas Day in 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, prompting President Jimmy Carter to suggest U.S. athletes boycott the 1980 Olympic Summer Games in Moscow as a protest.

All these problems loomed as the Olympics began in February 1980.

“And then there’s this hockey game,” former New York Daily News Sports Writer Wayne Coffey said Feb. 20 at the Olympic Center while discussing his book, “The Boys of Winter: The Untold Story of a Coach, a Dream, and the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team.”

“People were kind of down. Collectively, the national consciousness was sort of at a low ebb. And then these guys come along, and they didn’t make the bigger problems go away, but they sort of restored the belief that if you stick together and you work really hard and you believe somehow that you can do the impossible, you know what, maybe you can. To me, that’s the ultimate power in this (story).”