USA Hockey: Still a Miracle 28 Years Later
This weekend marks another anniversary of the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.
It is hard to fathom that almost three decades have passed since the ‘Miracle on Ice’.
Twenty-eight years ago a bunch of college kids pulled off arguably the greatest upset in sports history.
To understand the magnitude of that event one must consider the lineups of the two teams: the USA squad consisted of kids all under the age of twenty-five. Only one of those players (Buzz Schneider) had previous Olympic experience.
The USSR roster consisted of seasoned veterans. While not professional in the sense that they were paid to play hockey, the members of the Russian team were paid to serve in the army and playing hockey was part of their duty.
The game and the weekend showed the power of sports.
Those college kids had no business winning gold in Lake Placid.
What people cannot measure the human spirit displayed by that team to overcome great obstacles to win.
Looking back on that game and its surrounding events show how much our culture has changed.
It’s almost as if we were living in the dark ages twenty-eight years ago.
Rotary phones hanging from the wall served as our means of contact between houses.
Now we have cell phones and I dare not forget iphones.
Little did we know that eight-track tapes would become a hot commodity on a thing known as ebay. ipods have replaced 33 and 45 rpm.
Not to mention how much television has changed.
The proliferation of cable had not yet taken hold. When we finally got cable in our urban house, a box connected to the set by a cord that stretched across the floor changed the channels.
That’s right, remote control didn’t even exist.
Sports coverage in newspapers also lacked in comparison to today.
We did not have the comprehensive television schedules in our daily rag.
Such was the situation that Friday night as I headed to my desk job at our parish rectory (being a freshman and low man on the totem pole, I got the Friday night shift).
As far as I knew the game would be shown on tape delay nine o’clock that evening.
I would have to scoot home after work to see as much of the game in its entirety as possible.
It started out as a usual night at work.
Friday night—time to stuff the church bulletins.
There was a social gathering in the rectory hall. If memory serves me correct, it was a card party. Dad, as always, had some role in organizing the event.
I went about my work counting down the minutes until I could get home to watch the game.
That is until the phone rang. On the other end of the line was Smitty (living in a neighboring suburb, Smitty had the advantage of being in an area where cable made its way into the homes).
Smitty was calling to let me know that one of the cable stations was carrying the game live.
Hmmm…that changed things. He would call me with game reports.
Sometime during the first period dad walked through the office, and I relayed the info about the game’s live telecasts and Smitty’s impending reports.
When Buzz Schneider scored to tie the game in the first period, I got dad’s attention to let him know.
He got on the microphone and shared the news.
The announcement received a lukewarm response from those in attendance.
At the end of the second period Smitty called to inform us of the 3-2 score. The crowd in the rectory hall again returned a tepid response.
When Mark Johnson tied the score midway through the third, I hiked it down the stairs and got dad’s attention.
This time the parishioners started to take notice.
Moments later dad came to find out any update. On cue Smitty called with news of Mike Eruzione’s goal.
Now the faithful in the rectory hall would cheer.
Smitty’s last call of the evening elicited a roar of enthusiasm.
I recall hearing a few break into what is now the familiar chant of USA! USA! USA!
Smitty and I had become town criers for the night.
Two days later USA would play Finland for the gold.
As luck would have it, I also worked the Sunday morning shift at the rectory. This game was telecast live. I received special dispensation from the bishop to bring a television to work, so that I may watch the game.
I grabbed a portable black and white and trudged to work. It was February in upstate New York, and yes snow was coming down.
I forged ahead into a stiff wind along ice-covered walks with (okay so I am embellishing—just friggin’ humor me) that set in my hands. Mark Johnson and the Americans made it all worthwhile.
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