Fond Memories

Ed Trefzger, D-III Writer/Editor: I was a freshman at RIT. A week before the game, somebody stole the color TV out of the lounge on our floor, and about 18 people crammed into my dorm room to watch a snowy picture on my roommate’s 13-inch black and white.

After the gold-medal win, there was a spontaneous demonstration in one of the dorm quads (Sol Heumann, which to this day RIT students refer to as “sub human”), with hundreds people shouting “USA”, dumping IBM card punches out of windows, and throwing streamers of toilet paper. Someone swiped a giant U.S. flag, like they fly over Perkins’ restaurants, and they were using it like a trampoline to toss people up in the air.

The USA chants and cheering went on for about three hours, until the crowd had died down enough for campus security to clear the quad. There was a lot of anti-Iran feeling around that time because of the hostage crisis and general negative feeling because of a lousy economy and an uninspiring president (just like the opening credits of the film Miracle), and this was a huge outlet.

Mike Machnik, Site Architect: For those of us who were too young at the time to completely understand the political ramifications of the “Miracle on Ice,” it was “just a hockey game,” although that phrase doesn’t do it justice, as it was obviously a big one. But it was just about hockey for us.

I remember, as do many, that the game against the USSR wasn’t to be televised live in the United States on ABC. Our family gathered around the TV that Friday night at 8:00 p.m. and when Jim McKay said they were going to show the score and to look away if you didn’t want to know, that’s exactly what we did. We knew the odds were long but we believed and we watched it anyway. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t live, it may as well have been for all we knew, and it was just as exciting and unbelievable.

As everyone knows, the win over the Soviets wouldn’t have meant anything if the U.S. didn’t go on to beat Finland on Sunday in the last game of the medal round. The day and a half between games seemed like an eternity. I remember being at Mass Sunday morning and it seemed like none of us could wait to get home to watch the game. As we walked out of church my friends and I all ran ahead of our parents to meet up and excitedly talk about the game. “Are you watching it … Of course, we’re going right home to put it on …” We rushed home in time for the 11:00 a.m. start and even though the US fell behind after two, there was no doubt in our minds that they’d come back to win, and they did.

Being kids growing up in New England, the “Miracle” stayed with us a long time. A few years later, after our high school team upset Tommy Glavine and powerful Billerica High to end the Indians’ 28-game unbeaten streak — our own “Miracle on Ice” — a friend and I were asked to write a story about it for the school paper. It was my first foray into hockey journalism, and we made it count. We used every superlative in the book, concluding with what we thought was the piece de resistance — “And as the team poured off the bench to celebrate, one could almost see visions of Jim Craig draped in the American flag.”

To this day we still kid each other about that — “Can you believe we said that?” But that’s how much the “Miracle” meant to us as kids growing up at the time, one of the defining moments of our childhood. It was the yardstick by which every other upset in sports at any level came to be measured. And it served as inspiration, to think that no matter how much the deck seemed to be stacked against you, however long the odds were, anything was possible. For us, that was one of the most enduring legacies of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team. Anything is possible.

Chris Lerch, D-III Columnist: The Miracle on Ice made me a college hockey fan. I was freshman at RIT and followed the NHL at the time. I was, of course, caught up in the events at Lake Placid and was following the team closely from the first game onward.

I remember watching the Olympics that night and getting a vibe from Jim McKay prior to the game being shown on tape delay and in between periods. He didn’t give anything away, but it did seem to me that he was keeping a secret. I told the kids I was watching it with, “You know, I think they might have won.” It seemed insane to even imagine the possibility.

Yet as the final seconds ticked down and we all hugged each other, it seemed like a dream, like a play or movie, not real.

In the days and weeks after, I researched the players, and found out about college hockey. About BU and Minnesota and Herb Brooks. About the legacy, the rivalries, the fans.

I went to my first college hockey game the next season, at RIT. Turns out they had a pretty good team. RIT won the Division II national title two years later, and I was hooked. I started writing about college hockey in 1990 and found my way to USCHO in 1998. I wouldn’t be here if not for those few days in 1980.

Adam Wodon, Special Columnist: I was almost 10 years old when the Olympics were held. I was dorky enough as a kid to pay attention to current events, and so I understood the political implications of a hockey match with the Soviet Union — in light of President Carter boycotting the summer games, the hostage crisis, and the raging Cold War. We were also big hockey fans in our household, with 1980 coming in the years after the New York Islanders built a team that stood on the cusp of a dynasty.

As a result, there was a palpable impact in our house when the news flashed that the U.S. had defeated the Soviets. It was big for hockey reasons, and it was big for political reasons. I watched the tape delay of the broadcast later than night, still as excited about it as if I had never heard the score. It’s turned into a cliche, but it’s true: That win made us feel good about our country for a change.

Sunday was the live game, against Finland, and it was just as nervewracking, since the U.S. fell behind in the game. We celebrated with joy in pure hockey terms as the team won the gold medal. In a political sense, the deed was done against the Soviets. But clearly in retrospect it would not have had the same impact without Sunday’s win. What we didn’t know at the time was the impact it would have on youth hockey in the U.S.

In the immediate aftermath, the kids in our neighborhood, as big hockey fans, devoured every bit of information we could about our new heroes. They became icons of our generation, and we followed their progress through pro hockey, or wherever, and we still do. Years later, when I got to Lake Placid for the first time, in 1995 while covering Princeton hockey, I felt like I had reached Mecca (in every religious sense of the implication). And, to this day, no matter how many times you see Eruzione’s goal, or the final seconds of the Soviet game, you get chills. It will never get old.

Ryan Mattingly, Staff Writer: I was still pretty young, so I can’t really recall the game in detail. In fact, it wasn’t until I was a teenager that I saw a taped replay of the game. Exciting as it was, I still couldn’t comprehend what a huge accomplishment the “Miracle” was.

Then I saw highlights and heard of the 10-3 exhibition game loss to the Soviets that preceded the Olympics, and heard the players describe the rout. The skill and speed clinic the Russians put on that night was nothing short of mind-blowing, and still is today. Tretiak seemed unbeatable. It was only then that I could fathom how unlikely the win was and how much it meant for the country’s psyche.

Also, my wife had a major crush on Jim Craig back in the day, and she never fails to mention that whenever we see something on the 1980 team. Damn you, Jim Craig.

Craig Roberts, Special Contributor: My mom wasn’t a hockey fan. In fact, the USA vs. USSR game was the first game she ever actually sat down to watch. Since it was a tape-delayed broadcast, she had purposely kept all of us (her, myself and my two sisters) from finding out the result of the game before it was shown.

The gold-medal game, which was on a Sunday morning, was the only time I ever remember her letting me skip out of Sunday school. She put Herb Brooks up there with Vince Lombardi as one of the greatest men of her generation (she was a Packer fan during the 1960s, so that’s saying an awful lot).

In later years, I got to know Herb. I met him for the first time in 1986 when he was the head coach at St. Cloud State and saw him a lot when he started scouting. In retrospect, I wish I could have introduced them, since my mom would have gotten a kick out of meeting him. I cried the day both of them passed away.