LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Who could forget a moment that unites us all, like that ‘one small step’ that put man on the moon for the first time.
There’s a generation of Americans who do believe in miracles, after a moment in time that happened 40 years ago this weekend, right here in Upstate New York.
It’s been called the greatest sports moment of the 20th century, and even 40 years later, just visiting the arena is a moving experience.
Bill Ricciardelli, a first time visitor to Lake Placid, said, “Well, we just walked in here and my daughter just asked me… Well, I said, ‘I had chills.’ And she said, ‘Are you cold dad?’ I said, ‘No. It’s not those kind of chills.’ ”
Ken Morrow, 1980 men’s hockey Olympic gold medalist, said, “The first reaction from people is that they tell you who they were with and what they were doing the moment that they were sitting in front of TV watching the game. And there aren’t too many events in people’s lives where you can remember that. I call it the never-ending miracle, because it continues on and on.”
The date was February 22, 1980. A very young and underrated Team USA upset the heavily-favored Soviet hockey team in a medal-round game, on their way to Olympic gold.
Morrow said, “It worked in our favor though, truthfully, you know. Certainly being on home ice was a huge advantage for us. And being underdogs was another advantage for us, until that final game and then we weren’t the underdogs any more.”
Defense-man Ken Morrow was in Syracuse last week to celebrate the memories with the Syracuse Crunch. He says hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t want to talk about the Miracle on Ice.
Some of the players, like left wing Buzz Schneider, go back to Lake Placid two or three times a year.
“I’m really surprised it’s resonated for forty years like it has,” 1980 men’s hockey Olympic gold medalist Buzz Schneider said. “So, coming back is pretty special. It’s kind of like coming home again.”
An awful lot of people remember seeing the Miracle on Ice live on TV on ABC Sports. Well, unfortunately, their memories are a little bit off. The game was scheduled for mid-afternoon and the Soviet Federation would not reschedule. So, ABC recorded the game and played it back in prime time, on tape.
Ricciardelli said, “It was just a hockey game, but to everyone else, it was more than just a hockey game.”
With Cold War tensions on the rise in 1980, the win against the Soviets took on added emotion.
Al Apperti, a tourist from North Andover, Massachusetts, said, “As a nine-year-old, I was a little bit scared. Back then, there was a lot of talk about war and nuclear war, and a lot of things like that, and it comforted me. Felt like everybody was together.”
Buzz Schneider says the win did a lot for the country, and a lot to help grow the game of hockey.
“Before, it was maybe geographical, like Boston, Minnesota, Wisconsin. But now, it’s national, kids can come from anywhere. California, Arizona, we never thought they had ice. So, it’s good to see that it’s coming from all over the country,” Schneider said.
New generations learn about the story all the time, thanks to movies like Disney’s “Miracle,” which featured Buzz’s son Billy.
Schneider said, “The people out in Los Angeles asked him, ‘What’s it like to play your father?’ He said, you know, ‘Playing my dad’s pretty easy, not a stretch at all. But when they put the wedding ring on and I was supposed to be married to my mother, it got a little weird!’ “
The state invested an estimated $100 million in modernization of the Olympic venues, aimed at bringing tourism and major competitions to the Adirondack village.
Schneider said, “I don’t know if you could have Olympics now like we had ’em back in 1980. Everything is so big and so many more athletes and uh, but it’s special to be part of Olympics being in Lake Placid here. Special little town. ‘Lotta wonderful people here and every time I come back it brings back lots of great memories.”
ESPN will go in-depth on The Miracle on Ice 40th anniversary in a SportsCenter special, airing Sunday, February 23 at 2 p.m. on NewsChannel 9.
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