Remembering the "Miracle on Ice": U.S. hockey win in 1980 seems like yesterday

The U.S. hockey team reacts to the final-second goal that gave them the long-shot win over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Dubbed the “Miracle on Ice,” it was named Top Sports Moment of the 20th Century by Sports Illustrated, and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) chose it as the century’s No. 1 international ice hockey story.

LAKE PLACID, N.Y.— With five seconds left on the clock, the announcer screamed, voice hoarse with excitement, “Do you believe in miracles?”

In one resounding “Yes!” from more than 8,000 voices, Mike Eruzione slapped the puck into the Soviet goal, and an Olympic game became legend.

The U.S. Olympic hockey team beat the heavily favored Soviets 4-3 to move on to win the gold, and that triumph still resonates 35 years later.

‘COMPLETE CHAOS’

Olympic Regional Development Authority spokesman Jon Lundin was 13 when he witnessed the Miracle on Ice — on a Canadian television broadcast at his home in Lake Placid.

“What I remember most is my father realizing how historic this game and event was and grabbing my jacket so that he and I, father and son, could walk to Main Street so we could be a part of this celebration together,” he said.

“I remember the joy and jubilation and people standing on store, restaurant and bar rooftops singing the national anthem and waving the American flag."

“I remember people just reaching out to complete strangers, just to hug them and share the emotion of the moment,” Lundin said.

“It was complete chaos and pride to be an American. I truly believe that that single moment shaped me and gave me the direction to lead me to where I am now.”

2 FREE TICKETS

For many, it doesn’t seem has if 35 years have passed since the underdog U.S. hockey team pulled out a last-second win over the Soviet Union on Winter Olympics ice in Lake Placid.

“I was working at the ticket office for the Olympics, one block away from the rink,” Ironman Race Director Greg Borzilleri of Lake Placid, then 18, said via e-mail.

“At the end of my shift, on the day of the game, my boss came up to me and said, ‘I have two free tickets for you, to the U.S.-Soviet game tonight, do you want to go?’ I just looked at him, and I grabbed the tickets and ran.”

His home was about a mile away, and he rushed there, knowing that one of his two sisters should get that other seat.

“I said, ‘I have one ticket to the game that’s going on right now,’” he remembered. “They Rock-Scissor’ed-Papered for it, and Jody (Borzilleri) won, and she saw it all happen with me.”

DIDN’T PULL RANK

Jim Rogers, former owner of WNBZ-Radio in Saranac Lake, was chief of protocol during the 1980 Olympics.

“What I remember most is not being able to go to it,” he said. “When I came into the arena, we were two minutes into the game, and the State Police were lined up in front of the main door, in locked arms, and they told me that I couldn’t go in. I said, ‘Of course, I can. Why can’t I go in?’

“They explained to me that there were 7,700 seats in there and estimated about 11,000 people would try to make their way in.

“They told me, ‘We’re not about to start a riot by kicking people out, but we’re not about to let anyone else in.’

Rogers said he might have pulled rank and gone in through the doors downstairs.

“But I had two problems. I’m married to a woman who wouldn’t let me pull rank at a church picnic, and she’s terrified of crowds.

“So we watched as (Mike) Eruzione scored his goal — when the game was over, it was a roar all up and down Main Street.”

IN THE ZAMBONI PIT

Butch Martin, now director of the North Elba Parks and Recreation, was Olympic Center venues manager in 1980. He said the atmosphere in the rink that day was overwhelming.

“There was so much excitement in the air that just carried on and on. I was in the Zamboni pit trying to get upstairs to watch the game, but there were so many people I couldn’t make it up the stairs.

“I watched most of the game from the TVs CBC had set up downstairs, but I would peek my head out every once in a while to catch the live action.”

VP SURPRISE

Denny Allen, ORDA’s Olympic Center general manager, was venue manager for Olympic Oval at the time.

He said his best story doesn’t come from the Miracle game but from the gold-medal match against Finland, when the Americans again ruled the ice.

“It occurred in the locker room hallway, near locker room No. 7 of the Olympic Center,” Allen said.

“I was coming up from the speed-skating oval, where I had just finished work. I was walking down the hallway and opened up a door, where I was met by the vice president of the United States, Walter Mondale, and he was as shocked as I was, and I was immediately pressed up against the wall by a swarm of Secret Service agents shouting at me not to move.

“Believe me… I didn’t. I was finally able to walk by, and the rest is history.”

Dedam writes for the Plattsburgh (N.Y.) Press-Republican.

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