MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It was one of those moments where you remember right where you were when it happened: The USA men’s hockey team beat the Russians in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Ray Thering was the senior executive chef for the Olympic Village in Lake Placid and watched the “Miracle on Ice.” He planned a special meal for the team that would go on to win the gold — the highlight of his career.
Thering fondly recalls preparing three meals a day for thousands of athletes from around the world. He helped fuel the athletes, giving them strength to compete. That’s enough to stir sleeping emotions.
“Being there, being responsible for it, being a part of it,” Thering said.
But it’s the hockey that truly captured his heart at the 1980 games. An avid fan, he went to every game, watching as the U.S. team comprised of college players — led by St. Paul’s Herb Brooks — upset the Russians, who had dominated the games for years.
“It was definitely pride of country,” Thering said. “Saw all the commotion just at the end of the game.”
He believed in the Americans so much that even before that historic game, he started planning a “gold medal dinner” — something he drummed up.
“I had more or less made the menu and had the entire plan ready to rock and roll because I did bet on the Americans beating the Russians,” Thering said.
He calls it a simple meal, and 40 years later, he still knows the menu by heart.
“The main entree was roast sirloin of beef,” Thering said. “How was it? It was very easy and very joyous.”
A treasured picture shows Thering with Brooks, hours after the team beat Finland to win gold. He prepared the meal, and then ate with the team, rejoicing in their moment.
“The whole thing as they celebrated on the ice, that was just taken over and expanded with their family,” Thering said.
Decades later, the emotions of the games run as deep as when hockey delivered a miracle.
“I wish everybody could have shared that moment and that time in that town,” Thering said.
He went on to carry the torch in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, chosen because of the 1980 games connection.
He is taking part in the “Greatest Day Celebration” in St. Paul on Saturday.