MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It’s a game cast in sports immortality. Back when 20 U.S. collegiate hockey players conquered Russia’s elite.
That game at Lake Placid was essential if they were to capture Olympic gold.
“We’re surprised, all of us, at just how long it’s resonated,” 1980 Olympic gold medalist Buzzy Schneider said.
For players like Schneider, who was a stand-out player with the Golden Gophers, the matchup with Team Russia was simply hockey. But to the rest of us, it became so much more. Recall that back In 1980, Iran was still holding our hostages and Russia and the U.S. were locked in a bitter cold war.
Not to mention, Russia’s Red Army hockey team had captured the previous four consecutive Olympic gold medals. Soviet teams had a record of 27-1-1 dating back to the 1960 Olympics in Squaw Valley, California. The last time a U.S. team captured gold.
“We were there trying out for the team, and just wanted to be on an Olympic team going to Lake Placid. We were seeded 7 of 12 and ended up walking away with the whole thing. It’s unbelievable,” Schneider said.
To commemorate the 40th anniversary of this “Miracle on Ice,” teammates are getting together once again. This time they’re boarding a Sun Country Airlines flight for a fitting weekend celebration in Las Vegas.
“I’m just so proud to be part of that team, doing something nobody thought we could do,” Roseau native Neal Broten said.
To Broten, one of just two American players ever to win a collegiate hockey championship, Olympic gold medal and Stanley Cup, it’s the chance to be boys again. But mostly, to reminisce about the common path they all skated.
“I think back at all the times we walked to the rink as kids, and skated six or seven hours at the rink. They paid off in the long run. To win a gold medal, I still can’t believe it,” Broten said.
But all the joys and reminiscing are tempered in sadness. Missing from the celebration are players, Bob Suter and Mark Pavelich. In August 2003, coach Herb Brooks died in a tragic car accident near Forest Lake.
John Harrington says it’s a tight knit group which looks after one another.
“Certainly as a group, we became great friends and that certainly had a lot to do with not just playing hockey ability but the friendships – a lot to do with how well we did in 1980,” Harrington said.
So long ago yet still so fresh. This glorious American moment when legends were born – amid the tensions of politics and ice.