They are middle-aged men now, their hair a little thinner, their bodies a little thicker, pursuing careers, one an oral surgeon, another a financial broker, one a horse rancher, another a university executive, spread across the country from Massachusetts to Minnesota.
Twenty-five years ago, they came together and manufactured a miracle.
This coming week, they’ll gather in Lake Placid, N.Y., for their silver anniversary reunion. The U.S. hockey team won the Olympic gold medal in that tiny Adirondack town in 1980, prevailing against the longest of odds and bringing together a country that was struggling though tough times.
It produced a nationwide celebration then, and the reunion ought to be a terrific party now.
“There are a lot of great memories,” said Mike Eruzione, the captain of the team, who scored the winning goal in the medal-round game against the Soviet Union and now works in alumni relations at his alma mater, Boston University. “The feelings in that arena, that locker room. The fun we had. What we accomplished. It was a fabulous two weeks.”
Understand the circumstances. Twenty-five years ago, as 20 young skaters prepared for those Olympic Games, Americans were being held hostage in Iran and Soviet troops were marching through Afghanistan. President Carter already had announced a U.S. boycott of the Summer Olympics in Moscow. The U.S. economy was in disarray, with interest rates and inflation soaring.
Professionals were not a part of the Olympics then. There were no Dream Teams of NBA players at the Summer Games, no NHL players at the Winter Games. It was an all-amateur show. At least it was supposed to be.
Todd Bissonette / AP file
Mike Eruzione, captain of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, attends a reception in Lake Placid, N.Y., on Feb. 5, 2004.
The Soviets arrived in Lake Placid with a roster of stars. The goalie was Vladlislav Tretiak, who would wind up in the Hall of Fame. The captain was Boris Mikhailov, affectionally known as the Gordie Howe of Gorky Street. The team included a fistful of future NHL players like Viacheslav Fetisov, Vladimir Krutov, Alexei Kasatonov, Sergei Starikov, Helmut Balderis and Sergei Makarov.
The week before they headed for the Olympics, the young Americans ended a grueling exhibition schedule with a game against the Soviets at Madison Square Garden. They seemed in awe, applauding the Soviets during the introductions.
“We were not ready,” Eruzione said. “We stood around and watched in the first period, then played a little in the second and third.”
The result was a 10-3 rout by the Soviets.
“We were setting them up,” Eruzione chuckled.
Brooks drove his team relentlessly through their training and exhibition season. The drills were exhausting, and so were the homilies that the coach preached over and over to his players:
And on and on.
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