Miracle Monday: Miracle On Ice 35th Anniversary Reunion

I'm completely overwhelmed by the thought of trying to recap this event. There's just SO MUCH I want to talk about, and I don't even know where to begin, let alone decide what to leave out. Wow. But it was phenomenally amazing. Let's start there. (Or if you missed the rest of my Lake Placid recaps, you can start with part 1 and part 2.)

The event started at 7:30, with the doors opening an hour beforehand. But tickets were general admission, and if you know me at all (ahem, cough), you know I like to be over-cautious in all situations that involve getting your own seat (or place in the crowd, or spot on a barrier, etc.). Luckily my parents know this and were on board (and it was also my birthday so I had final say either way!), so we went to the arena at 5:00. And guess what: we were first in line. Sweet, sweet victory!

As someone who's done her fair share of waiting in line for things (lol, understatement), waiting an hour and a half was easy as pie. The line that formed behind us was totally calm and well-behaved (except for one guy who had gotten there second but tried to sneak in front of us and pretend he was first -- nuh uh, bud). And my parents actually got really into it! They were all prepared to fight people to get in first and then go sprinting to our previously scoped-out seats. We joked about doing some stretching and light calisthenics to get ourselves warmed up and ready to run. It was like preparing for battle. "Okay team, here are the tickets. Do we all know the plan? We'll rendezvous at the seats at eighteen hundred thirty hour. Send a distress signal if you run into any trouble. Godspeed." (But seriously, seeing my parents in this kind of environment made so much sense of why I am the way I am.)

And then the doors opened, and we got in, and we ran to our seats... and we had another hour to wait. LOL. We hadn't had dinner yet, so my dad ran to a concession stand to get some provisions. I was so anxious and excited at this point that it was all I could do to choke down my hotdog. Because, dude, I was sitting in the first row behind the boards at the Herb Brooks Arena!!!! And the 1980 Olympic hockey team was going to be there!!!!! (All of the exclamation points!!!!!!!!!)

The players were introduced one-by-one in numerical order, and I was thoroughly entertained from the moment Steve Janaszak had company on stage. Really, I wish I could sit here and recount every minute detail of the whole night, because they were all so hilarious and excited to be there. But it was incredibly special for me to be able to stand and cheer for each of them as they walked in. All of my "cheering" up until that point has been done either on this blog or on Tumblr, so to be in an arena with several thousand other people who were just as excited as I was? Incredible.

The evening was basically Todd Walsh (the MC) asking questions and leading a discussion following the timeline of the Olympic/pre-Olympic season (starting with the team's formation and moving on to exhibition games, Olympic games, etc.). There were various video clips shown and "USA" chants had, and Todd even led the crowd in yelling "AGAIN!" a bunch of times. But mostly it was the guys talking and chirping each other and being goofballs.

I've been thinking for a week now about how the hell I was going to summarize what actually happened, but nothing really hit me until yesterday. I was reading an article from 1980 about the post-gold medal press conference that all the players were present for, and I realized... this reunion was almost an exact reincarnation of that press conference.

1980: Jack O'Callahan was drinking beer onstage.
2015: Jack O'Callahan was drinking beer onstage.

(Note the bottle in his lap. Also, note Mark Pavelich! This was his first public appearance since 2004 and, while he didn't speak and was clearly uncomfortable being in front of people, I was beyond overjoyed to just be in his presence. Actually, "beyond overjoyed" is a huge understatement.)

1980: Jim Craig spoke about what a phenomenal teammate, hockey player and person Steve Janaszak is, and then they hugged.
2015: Jim Craig spoke about what a phenomenal teammate, hockey player and person Steve Janaszak is, and then they hugged.

1980: John Harrington talked Brooksisms, and had people rolling on the floor laughing.
2015: John Harrington talked Brooksisms, and had people rolling on the floor laughing.

In other words? These guys haven't changed one iota since 1980. They're still a bunch of goofy boys who sass each other mercilessly, but the most amazing thing is how clearly they love each other to the ends of the earth.

There's one moment in particular that I have to share. Towards the end of the evening, Todd Walsh asked Jim Craig a question. But Jim had spoken already that night, and is obviously one of the most visible faces of the team. So instead of answering the question, Jim said that Eric Strobel or Neal Broten should do so, since those two were the only guys who had gone unrecognized to that point in the discussion. Jim talked briefly about each of them and how phenomenal they were, and then passed his question off to Neal. And Neal opened his mouth and said the following:

"I've played on a lot of teams, and this is the best team, the closest team I ever played on. As a younger guy, I looked up to all these guys. It was a privilege and honor for me to represent our country with these guys and do what we did."

The crowd gives him a huge ovation for that. And while this is all going on, I looked up to the screens, where the camera had focused on Rob McClanahan and Buzz Schneider. Mac was nodding seriously and you could see him say to himself, "He's got that right." He then turned to Buzz, leaned in and said, "He's got that right," in Buzz's ear. And Buzz nodded emphatically.

That, essentially, is this team in a nutshell.

But then Buzz talks about how he scored a hat trick on Vladislav Tretiak and his teammates decide to whack him for his troubles.

And Bah spends a solid five minutes explaining and acting out how Mike Eruzione's winning goal really should've been his, but that he decided to pass to Rizzo instead as a favor to the team captain who he saw "had no future in the sport."

Of course, we can't forget that the evening ended with a tribute to Bob Suter, with his jersey being raised to the rafters. A number of his teammates got pretty emotional during this part, and at one point Jack O'Callahan slipped up and said "twenty players" when talking about the team. He had to backtrack and correct himself, saying that now it's 19 but, "we still feel like it's 20 because Bobby's up here with us." It was really sad but incredibly touching.

Then the national anthem was played, because that's what happened the last time these guys were all in this building together. (So. many. feelings.)

And then Mike Eruzione grabbed a mic and expressed the team's collective gratitude, and they all gathered for a team photo, and that was it! (Except that's not really it. I'll probably be squealing with glee about this for the rest of my life. It'll never be "it.")

I'm so, so glad I got to be there and see this in person. It was incredibly special to watch these guys relive everything and not just get love from the crowd, but get it from each other as well. I know I said it before, but they just adore each other. That was my big takeaway from this event. Just a whole lot of love.

So, how does a 40th anniversary reunion sound? Yes? See you there? ;)

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1 comment :

  1. I love that Pav is smiling in the final team photo :D
    SO glad that you had the time of your life!!!
    And how lucky are you to have parents that indulge you???