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1980 Miracle On Ice – Thirty Three Years Ago Today

My family makes fun of me because there are some movies I can watch over and over.  It doesnt matter when they are on, and I dont even have to really pay attention to the movie, but I cant pass up at least having it in the background while other things are going on.

Miracle is one of those movies.

Growing up in Upstate New York, I can remember the 1980 Olympics vividly.  I was twelve years old, and just starting to understand the world was more than going to the rink.

I can remember the build up to those games over the course of years through the press.  I can also remember the “feelings” being expressed by family and friends when ever the word “Russia” was uttered.  I remember the real fear of nuclear war that I was made to feel because of all the adults talking about it.  I was probably one in of the last groups of students that actually had bomb drills while in school and remember hiding under the desk.

I remember sitting in my parents kitchen watching that game on a little black and white television, that was probably smaller than the lap top I write on today.  How far we have come in technology may also be an annalogy for how far the hockey community has come as a group.

I can remember watching that game and being rivited to the chair.  Everyone said the United States had no chance, all the hockey experts, people at the local rink, hockey parents, and the press.  I remember people talking about how they hopped “we could keep it close”.  Yes, even before the game it was about “we”, it was about “us versus them”.

Glued to the television, my mother checked in on me once in a while and just chuckle.  I was a stat junky even then.  I kept track of shots, hits, scoring chances, I should have known then that I would end up being better at measuring the game than being a player.

I wont go through the entire game because we all have our thoughts and memories.

I think anyone who watched the game though can remember the feeling as we counted down the seconds before it ended.  Anyone who says they didnt cry just a little isnt a true hockey fan.  Anyone who looks back at that game now without getting a little emotional probably isnt old enough to remember watching it.

In 1995 I was lucky enough to have the experience of being invited to Madison Monsters training camp.  I was nearing my late twenties and I had been recovering from a badly broken leg and ankle from the year before.  My wife didnt want me to go, and looking back I was not even close to being healthy.  I received the invite on a fax at the local office supply shop.  I didnt pay much attention to the details other than where and when to report.

I arrived in Madison, and went to the team hotel.  That night we had a team dinner and meeting.  In walks Head Coach Mark Johnson.  One of the 1980 Olympic heros.  Needless to say, I had a flash back, and although he was not an intimidating person, I was intimidated simply by his presence.  I immediately flashed back to pretending to be him when playing pick up games fifteen years earlier.

Neadless to say, I didnt make the team.  My exit interview with Coach Johnson was short, he said I simply wasnt healthy but that I would be welcome back when I was.  I took my chance at that time to ask him how “it felt”.  His answer was simple and he said something to the effect that it was an incredible feeling but that he did not know until later how important the game would end up becoming.  He shook my hand and I was on my way home.

When I got home, I framed the faxed camp invite with his signature, and I still have it today.

It was two years later when I met Slava Fetisov.  The big intimidating Russian Defenseman.  I was lucky enough to have a conversation with him and I asked him the same question, how did it feel?

Fetisov said something to the effect that he was glad to have been a part of the game even though his team lost.  He felt that one game is what gave rise to the populatiry of hockey in the United States.  I remember him saying “we under estimated them” more than anything.

Thirty Three Years!  My experience watching that game and meeting two of its players has taught me a lot in life.  It has taught me that through hard work and preparation, anything is possible.  It has also taught me to never underestimate an opponent.  Perhaps more important than any one lesson that translates to business or sport, it taught me that miracles do happen.

I could probably go on writing about this game and its impact for most of the day, but I am going to throw in my dvd of the original game film and watch it with my son as we have for the last 15 years or so.  Its important to pass these life lessons along to those who may not completely grasp just why we are watching some grainy old footage.

How many of you are thinking about watching Miracle today?

Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher

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