A Miracle, Frozen In Time, 30 Years Ago Today
February 22, 2010
By Mike Moran
Thirty years ago this morning in Lake Placid, I was in one tough bind on a cold Friday morning…………. I hurried out of the house on the grounds of the old Lake Placid resort around dawn, down to the edge of Mirror Lake to catch a ride into the village, on a dog sled………for $1.50, some young guy would run me across the lake into town, dogs barking and lunging, and drop me off right below Main Street, where I could walk to the main press center, which was the high school………… our one car was in use that morning up on Whiteface Mountain, and I had a big-time issue to face…………there was a hockey game to be played that afternoon at the Olympic Arena at 5:00, and I had only 45 tickets for the U. S. press to see the looming showdown between the United States and the Soviet Union, and I needed another 40………. to make things worse, the International Ice Hockey Federation had rebuffed the plea by ABC Sports and USA Hockey to show the game live to a huge American audience suddenly captivated by the triumphs of our fresh-faced kids and their stern taskmaster, coach Herb Brooks……….. our economy was in tough straits, Iran was holding Americans hostage, President Jimmy Carter had told us we couldn’t take an Olympic Team to Moscow unless the Soviets got out of Afghanistan soon, the Cold War was still percolating, and Americans wanted something good to grab onto, and that was our hockey team! So, I got to work right away, buzzed up on coffee…..……I found the press attaches from some other countries who still had tickets for the semifinals, even though their teams were out of it………. I cajoled, stroked and presented bounty like Olympic team pins, belt buckles, USA team mittens and scarves, and whatever else I could scrounge up, even some fake designer watches I had bought on the street in New York three weeks before, and by 1:00, I had the extra tickets……….. I posted a note to the U. S. writers in their individual mail boxes at the school post office that I would meet those on the waiting list at the door of the Arena starting at 4:00 and hand them their ducats………….. the guy who managed the post office could not let me have a key to get into the back room to shove notes and tickets into the boxes during the Games for our writers, but he had generously showed me how to get into the room through a door, using a credit card to flip the lock………. I had then scribbled the names of the writers in magic marker on the back of each shelf to remind me who was who…………at 4:00, I was at the arena entry, handing out the valued tickets to American writers and feeling like I had hit the jackpot, but in my cold heart, I didn’t think we could win, and I was mentally making plans for the post-game press conference at the high school auditorium with Brooks and several of his young players, likely drained after a superhuman effort and a crushing, narrow defeat at the hands of the best hockey team in the world………but over the next three hours, seated and surrounded by a lot of the writers I had managed to find space for, I was given the gift of a lifetime, becoming a witness to our nation’s most dramatic sports event in history, one that even now, three decades later, brings adults to tears and hockey players not then even born inspiration and passion…………. in the riveting, astonishing final ten minutes of a game, frozen in time, with a din so intense in the 8,500-seat arena that it suffocated normal sounds and sights, I gasped for air as the late sportswriting legend, Joe Falls of the Detroit News, constantly whacked me on my back with his metal clipboard as the minutes and seconds roared by, until sticks flew into the air, flags were hoisted skyward, fans embraced, young American players piled atop each other, and hair stood on end……………the electricity in that old building could have lit the lights in a thousand cities that evening across a nation that would only begin to hear about the score on radio, on crawling signs in Times Square, in local TV news cut-ins, and from mouth to mouth by jubilant Americans calling their neighbors………..a light snow was falling as I scrambled out of the arena through crowds of fans singing and hugginneighbors………..aay to the high school in anticipation of what I imagined to be the best press conference in history, with 600 media jammed into the auditorium to hear how Brooks and his players had slain the dragon………it was not to be, and finally, this morning, I have come to understood why it was…………Brooks denied sending any of his players to the media briefing, nor would he attend…………we scrambled by with an assistant coach and team officials for an hour, though Brooks let ABC have some time with his players at the back door of the arena……….. last night, on NBC as part of the USA-Canada game runup, I watched Al Michaels sit around in chairs on the ice at the old Lake Placid Arena where the miracle took place with Mike Eruzione, Jim Craig and Mark Johnson, the heroes of that epic clash………I heard Eruzione describe how Brooks had told the players they could not go to the press conference for good reason………he wanted them to keep their emotions in check and not get caught up in the moment………for there was a game to be played on Sunday against Finland, for the Gold…………so, on February 24, they went out, and after a slow start and a 2-l Finnish lead after two periods, our team scored three unanswered goals to carve out a 4-2 win on that golden day in Lake Placid as the world watched………….. we did have an amazing press session after the game with all 20 players, still dressed in their game uniforms, towels around their necks, telling their stories……. but Brooks stayed out of it, as he had when he left the ice immediately after the final horn sounded in the win over the Soviets two days before…………. he left the moment to the players that he had driven, pushed and molded over a year into the best hockey team in the world for that one two-week odyssey in this tiny Adirondack Mountain hamlet……….. Of course, I had needed a lot more extra tickets for the Gold medal game against the Finns, and got a dozen of them that Sunday morning from the Soviet press attaché himself, a Tass journalist by trade……. I had gone to his office early that morning, February 24, to ask for any tickets he did not need for his writers, and to be a good, gracious winner…………after an hour of drinking vodka toasts to our team, his team, to both nations, to ourselves and the future, he handed me the extra tickets………….. that afternoon, I found my way to the arena door again and greeted writers with the cherished tickets to the final chapter of the Miracle On Ice………. I kept a ticket for both games, extras, for myself……they are in my scrapbook now, one signed later by Eruzione and Craig………….. On March 31 in my hometown, Omaha, I get to introduce Eruzione at a banquet that is a fundraiser for my alma mater, the University of Nebraska at Omaha………I even found a jersey signed by all 20 of the Miracle Makers for a silent auction as part of the evening…………. Eruzione gave me one of those jerseys, signed by all 20 players, in Salt Lake at the end of the 2002 Games during a retirement surprise party for me at USA House………. I kept it until last fall, when I donated it to the silent auction at our Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame………. it is now in the hands of a hockey fan who can display it, as I did, on a wall in his home, and tell guests about the game and its place in history………. I don’t need the jersey now, because I have the memories of an event that made time stand still thirty years ago today, and a team and coach that will never be forgotten.
Mike Moran Senior Media Consultant The Colorado Springs Sports Corporation 1631 Mesa Ave., Suite E Colorado Springs, CO 80906 (719) 634-7333, ext. 1011
Mike Moran was the chief spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee through thirteen Games, 1980-2002. The Omaha, Nebraska native was the Sports Information Director at the University of Colorado for a decade before joining the USOC in 1978 as it left New York City for Colorado Springs. He was the Senior Communications Counselor for NYC2012, New York City’s Olympic bid group from 2003-2005 and is now a media consultant. Reach him at: firstname.lastname@example.org Read more at www.coloradospringssports.org.Print This Post