I’ve never been to Lake Placid, though it has always been one of those places where I’m hoping someday I’ll have time to visit. But like it is for a lot of people who are over 40 years old, Lake Placid is a place where, in a way, it feels like we’ve already been.
The 1980 Winter Olympic Games have everything to do with that feeling — and the “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Men’s hockey team has forever etched this quaint, beautiful upstate New York village in our collective memories. Instead of a fictitious baseball field in Iowa, Lake Placid is where dreams actually did come true.
I was just a young kid when this happened but I still remember the Soviet Union game well; in fact, I have the entire game on DVD. I also remember the often-overlooked but equally important ensuing game against Finland. And there’s yet another thing I remember about the “Miracle on Ice” game: I had not heard that the game was actually going to be played in the afternoon and not at night in prime time … when, I thought, by the promos ABC was running would be played. So I’m watching New York City’s WPIX around 5 or 6 p.m. and the late, great Jerry Girard, the station’s sports anchor, comes on for the sports news and says something like, “You’ll never guess what has just happened … the U.S. Men’s Olympic hockey team just defeated the Soviet Union 4-3.”
Before the Internet, before today’s plethora of sources for immediate information, this was the only way to get a sports game spoiler — and Jerry Girard didn’t even provide a spoiler alert … he just came out with it.
So I watched the game later that night knowing full well that even when our team was down and the Soviets were applying constant pressure, we were going to win, and I admit, it detracted just a little bit from it. Not much, but I wasn’t panicky nervous like I would have been watching that game while not knowing that in the final frantic 10 minutes, we were going to hang on.
Thirty-six years ago … sigh. Tell you what, though. I might have known the result beforehand that night, but I sure as heck didn’t know that so many years later, like now, I’d still feel incredibly emotional and proud about what happened that night in Lake Placid.