A Night To Remember

Sylvania, Ohio Youth Players Retell The Greatest Hockey Story Ever Told

 

They may have been too young to remember the events of Feb. 22, 1980, but every hockey player lacing up a pair of skates across the United States today shares a common bond and a lasting kinship with those miracle men who are old enough to be their fathers or grandfathers.

Almost 24 years to the day after the United States Men’s Ice Hockey Team beat the Russians on Olympic ice in Lake Placid, N.Y., Disney Studios released “Miracle,” a look back at one man's hockey dream and the 20 extraordinary young men who turned it into a reality.

Before they could step foot in a theater to cast their eyes on the silver screen, members of the Sylvania (Ohio) Metro Amateur Hockey League were asked to share their thoughts on the historic event that took place many years before they were born.

Spurred by Sylvania Hockey League President Joe Reynolds, a local theater set aside a special screening for close to 400 hockey players. Their price of admission was writing an essay on what happened 24 years ago in Lake Placid, N.Y. 

This is the story of the “Miracle on Ice” as told by the youth hockey players of Sylvania, Ohio: 

* * *

The reason I play hockey today is because of what happened long before I was born. A miracle took place at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., that would change American hockey forever. (1)

Once, there was a group of college kids who performed an Olympic miracle. They came from all over the United States. At first they didn't like each other, but then Coach Herb Brooks taught them how to play the game like men. (2)

In 1980, the United States was going through tough times. The economy was sluggish, gas prices were high, and a lot of people were out of work. Some U.S. citizens were held hostage in Iran for 444 days. (3)

At the time, the USSR and the USA were not very good friends. They were involved in the Cold War. The Cold War was a series of threats between the two countries. The threats were very serious. (4)

If a war would have started and nuclear weapons were used it would have been World War III, and could have possibly destroyed the world. (5)

The United States finally achieved victory. It was not won in war, but on the ice. (6)

Who would have thought that a bunch of college kids would come out and beat the unbeatable Russians? (7)

The Russian hockey players practiced up to three times a day and rarely saw their families. Playing hockey was their job. They had the best team in the world. They were like a modern day professional team in the NHL. The teams they played were no match. (8)

Nobody gave the USA a chance. Dave Anderson of The New York Times said that unless the ice melts or the USA performs a miracle, the Russians would easily win the gold medal for the sixth time in seven Olympics. (9)

Not all hope was lost though, at least not for Herb Brooks. He put together a team of all college kids who had no NHL experience. He taught them to work as a team and play as one. (10)

The Americans trailed in six of their seven Olympic wins, including the gold-medal game.  In their opener, Bill Baker scored with 27 seconds left to give the USA a 2-2 tie with Sweden in the opening game of the tournament. Would the Miracle of Lake Placid have occurred if Baker hadn't scored? Probably not. (11)

Reaching the semifinals with a 4-0-1 record, the Americans were slated to play the Soviets again. Many fans were impressed that the young team had made it so far, but few believed that the underdog would even have a chance. (12)

The fans were wild when the game began. The stands were filled with American flags. As the game progressed the fans grew wilder and louder. (13)

As expected, the Soviets began an overwhelming offensive rush against the Americans, but the U.S. players stayed with them. Jim Craig was looking sharp, as sharp as he had ever looked. Even though they were badly outshot, the U.S. Team started to gain confidence as the time on the first period clock ticked away. (14)

Soviet coach Viktor Tikhonov pulled his legendary goalie, Vladislav Tretiak, for the younger and less experienced Vladimir Myshkin. It seemed to work as the Soviets took a 3-2 lead into the third period. (15)

The Russians outshot the U.S. 12-2 in the second period but had only one goal to show for it. In the third period, Mark Johnson scored the tying goal and less the 1:30 later Mike Eruzione blasted one past the Russian goalie to win the game. (16)

The American flags were flying high and U-S-A chants were all around as America held on to win its first gold since 1960. It was a miracle that many people still remember. They remember exactly where they were as they were glued to the TV to see if America could pull off the unthinkable. Our amateurs against the best in the world. It was the most memorable moment in USA Hockey history. (17)

Twenty-four years later, the Feb. 22, 1980 game is still remembered as the greatest game in the history of sports. If you talk to anyone alive at the time, they can tell you exactly where they were and how they felt. (18)

People who had experienced the event say that it wasn’t just a win for a hockey team, but a victory for an entire nation. It brought new life to a melancholy country that at the time had little to hope for. Reflecting on this event makes me not only proud to be part of USA Hockey, but proud to be an American. (19)

My dad remembers watching the game on tape delay with his parents, who let him stay up to watch the game. Even though there was a breaking bulletin in the middle of Jeopardy!, that already told them the score, it still must have been exciting to see the players throw their sticks and gloves in the air in celebration. My dad says that he will never forget the game, no matter how bad his memory gets. (20)

My dad was sucking down a “few pops” at a local pub with a bunch of friends. He said the scene was electric. The outcome of the game had people all over the country singing “The Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” for many hours. (21)

My dad says his most vivid memory is of Mike Eruzione, the captain of the U.S. Team. My father went to all the Toledo Goaldiggers games back then and Mike was a player for the Toledo team. Although he was not the biggest player on the team, my dad remembers him as a standout because he always hustled and gave 100 percent on every shift. He was the hardest worker on the team. The fact that he captained the U.S. team means that others besides my dad also saw Mike as a very special hockey player. (22)

He had one goal in the Olympics and it was the winning goal over Russia. (23)

While Eruzione was playing in Toledo, my grandfather was a goal judge. I like to think the two were friends during that time. My grandfather has since died but among the items he saved from his goal judging years were several Mike Eruzione badges both from his days with the Goaldiggers and from the 1980 Olympics. (24)

I think this is neat because I have also played at the Toledo Sports Arena as did Mike Eruzione and I have also played at the Bowling Green State University hockey arena like Ken Morrow and Mark Wells. Hopefully, I will get the chance to represent the USA Olympic hockey team as did all the players who have ever represented the U.S. Olympic hockey team. (25)

On Sunday, Feb. 24, 1980, Team USA defeated Finland, 4-2, to win the gold medal. They did it by coming from behind in the third period. My parents call that day “Miracle Sunday.” (26)

What the U.S. hockey team did to the USSR in the 1980 Olympics seems miniscule to what they did for the minds and hearts of the American people. (27)

The young American team split up after the Olympics and many played in the NHL. They became heroes to all future American hockey players. (28)

The “Miracle on Ice” may be the single most memorable moment in all of U.S. sports history. It was a moment that is said to have broken one nation and reunited another. Even now, almost 25 years later, it remains as important and dignifying as if it was yesterday. (29)

This gave America reason to be happy and learn to never give up. It also meant that the USA was just as good at hockey as anyone else. (30)

It showed there was hope for America. (31)

The impact of that game and the gold medal that followed gave a huge jump-start to USA Hockey programs all over the country. Today I am proud to be a part of the growing hockey programs throughout the USA. The recent accomplishments of the U.S. Junior Team shows how far we have come. (32)

This really opened my eyes to what is possible if I dedicate myself to hockey and work harder than the kid next to me, just so I can have fun and enjoy the game of hockey. (33)

Twenty-four years ago, the U.S. Olympic hockey team made us believe that miracles can happen. (34)

 

The Authors

(1) Jake Kennedy; (2) Nicholas Rutter; (3) Kyle Wood; (4) Andrew Heldt; (5) Connor C. Frey; (6) Chase Parsell; (7) Ian Kelsey; (8) Stephen Bruno; (9) Zach Dooley; (10) Eamonn Reynolds; (11) Dalton Carter; (12) Jared Keever; (13) Luke Stansfield; (14) Will Gerken; (15) Mychael McAninch; (16) Mike Lewandowski; (17) Tad Huber; (18) Eamonn Reynolds; (19) Matt Cook; (20) Andrew Heldt; (21) Kyle Wood; (22) Nolan Schreiber; (23) Jimmy Thomas; (24) Jon Fischer; (25) Jared Kujawa; (26) Tyler Jarosz; (27) Will Gerken; (28) Jake Kennedy; (29) Andrew New; (30) Joey Soto; (31) Alex Mihlbauer; (32) Kyle Wood; (33) Jordan Ovalle; (34) Ross Gilmore

 

A Night To Remember was originally published in the 2014 April/May print edition of USA Hockey Magazine.

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