Miracle on Ice team to celebrate 35th anniversary in Lake Placid
The 1980 United States men’s Olympic hockey team will step into a time machine Saturday in Lake Placid, New York. The Olympic Fieldhouse will look the same. The relationships will feel the same. There will even be a crowd to cheer for the team.
"You really get the sense when you go back there that they just shut the doors, locked it up and kept everything like it was," right wing Dave Christian said.
The main difference, however, will be a complete lack of suspense. What once was considered impossible is now a fait accompli. All surviving members of the team will gather for the first time since coach Herb Brooks’ death to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice when the U.S shocked the heavily favored Soviet Union, 4-3, en route to the gold medal.
"Even though all these years have passed and I don’t see everybody very often, we’ll revert right back to who we were," defenseman Ken Morrow said, laughing. "The guys who got picked on will get picked on again, the same old jokes will be told. I assume it’s exactly what a high school reunion would be like."
The Lake Placid reunion is the signature event of the eighth annual nationwide celebration of the sport called "Hockey Weekend Across America," which begins Friday. It was organized by Jeff Holbrook of Potentia Athletic Partners. FOX Sports Arizona’s Todd Walsh will emcee the event after arriving in what he calls "hallowed ground" late Wednesday night.
"I’ve obviously been obsessed with this story for my entire career and I always seem to stumble into new angles," Walsh said. "I really believe Feb. 22 should be a national holiday. I will be honored to be on that stage with them, but it’s their stage."
One year ago, 10 members of the team gathered in Glendale for a pre-game ceremony to send the 2014 Olympians off to Sochi, Russia. Coyotes CEO Anthony LeBlanc hatched the idea, which was popular with fans and the players, leading NHL commissioner Gary Bettman to note that he’d like to see more of the team in NHL arenas in years to come to remind the U.S. of its hockey heritage and create more interest in the sport.
The team members all gathered at the NHL All-Star Game in Los Angeles in 2002, some lit the torch at the Winter Games in Salt Lake City hat same year, and they walked the red carpet when the movie "Miracle" debuted in 2004. But actual events dedicated to the team have been few and far between.
"Life has a tendency to get in the way," Christian said. "Everybody was busy with their careers and their families, and I think there’s probably some truth to the idea that the make-up of the team was such that guys are content and happy living their lives. Nobody was going out of their way to set something up. Nobody felt like we needed more attention."
— Todd Walsh (@ToddWalsh) February 20, 2015
At the same time, Christian, Morrow and other understand that what they accomplished is still perhaps the greatest sports moment in the nation’s history — one that had repercussions.
"Nobody on our team wants to take credit for the explosion of hockey in the ’80s and ’90s because there are plenty of other reasons for that," Morrow said. "But from my experience, I’ve had thousands of people either come up to me or write me a letter to say that is how they got started or just to say thanks."
Walsh said the event will be "an intimate story, in chronological order of events with video support." It will include some of the "made for Hollywood moments" that occurred along the way and it will also include numerous clips of the game against the Soviets, which the players, oddly enough, say they have never really sat down and discussed at length.
The night will conclude on a somber note when team member Bob Suter’s No. 20 is raised into the rafters of Herb Brooks Arena. Suter, 57, died Sept. 9 after suffering a heart attack in Middleton, Wisconsin at Capitol Ice Arena.
"It hit me especially hard because we were like the band of brothers," Morrow said. "Bob dedicated his life to hockey. Not only his own career, but after he finished he touched lives of a lot of kids.
"He was a true hockey hero at the grass roots level so it will be a special moment to be there with the guys to celebrate his life and what we accomplished together. I hope it doesn’t go by as fast as I think it will."
VIDEO: Revisit some of FOX Sports Arizona’s interviews from last year’s gathering of the 1980 Olympic team in Glendale, prior to the Sochi Olympics.