Miracle Monday: Two-Time Olympians

Happy Monday, and hello from New York! It's always strange writing Miracle Monday from anywhere other than Colorado (y'know, the two or three times that's ever happened) -- these posts have become such a barometer for my week, and getting away from my normal routine has me all sorts of out of my element! But I digress.

So, I've already spent some time talking about the post-1980 NHL careers that some of these guys put together. And it seems very remiss of me not to talk about the guys that didn't play in the NHL but were very successful otherwise, in the form of multiple Olympic teams! I'm sure most of you are aware, but I'll explain anyway: professional hockey players (really just anyone who played in an NHL game, basically) weren't allowed to participate in the Olympics until 1998. So back in the day, making multiple Olympic teams meant something a little different than it does nowadays, and it was much more rare than it is today. Rather than a whole legion of returning Olympians every four years, you'd get a small handful. A very small handful. Actually, "handful" is a generous word.

Buzz Schneider was the lone holdover from the 1976 Olympic team. He was the oldest member of the '80 team, but in '76 he was only 21 and one of the babies! He left the University of Minnesota early to join the Olympic team, and ended up scoring three goals and two assists in Innsbruck. Those five points in six games was good enough for fourth on the team in scoring -- not too shabby! The U.S. finished in fifth place with a 3-3 record, but were within inches of winning the bronze medal. It came down to the final game; all the U.S. had to do was not lose to West Germany. They obviously lost, but guess who scored the lone U.S. goal! Spoiler alert: it was Buzz. :) After the '76 Olympics he kicked around the minors for a few years, making it as far as training camp with the Pittsburgh Penguins but never cracking an NHL roster. So when Olympic tryouts rolled around again, he decided to give it another go. (It certainly didn't hurt that Herb basically guaranteed him a spot on the roster because he wanted him for the team so badly!) Buzz pretty much killed it at the 1980 Olympics, with five goals and three assists in seven games to tie for second on the team in scoring. After Lake Placid he played professionally in Europe for a few years... until Olympic tryouts rolled around again and he figured, well, why not try again? But unfortunately, when he saw a team doctor during tryouts, he was told that his back had had enough, and he retired. Just think: if his back had held out for another few months, Buzz Schneider would've been the first three-time Olympian in U.S. hockey history. For real. 
Listen, we need to talk about Phil Verchota more. The dude is legit. He won two national championships with the University of Minnesota (1976 and 1979) before making the Olympic team in 1980. He scored three goals and two assists in seven games in Lake Placid, including the gold medal game-tying goal against Finland. He'd been drafted by the Minnesota North Stars but ultimately decided he didn't want to play in the NHL; he wasn't a fan of how violent the North American game was, so he decided to play in Europe. (Phil rejected the NHL. Let's just take a moment.) He then played on U.S. national teams until Olympic tryouts, and he decided he'd go for one last spin before retiring. Not only did he make his second Olympic team, he was named captain of said Olympic team. #yaassss. Unfortunately the 1984 Olympic team didn't do very well in Sarajevo, going 2-2-2 for seventh place. It wasn't a bad team by any means; there was just sort of a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances (I highly suggest reading SB Nation's story about this team. It's really fascinating). But Phil scored two goals and two assists. And he wore the C, which is REALLY all that matters, right? :)
Yes folks, we have two Coneheads that are two-time Olympians. How 'bout that? John Harrington's story is a pretty phenomenal one. He was a walk-on at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and wasn't expected to make the 1980 Olympic team. But he overachieved at tryouts and earned himself a spot on the roster, and ended up tallying five assists in seven games at Lake Placid. After the Olympics, he initially planned on trying to make it to the NHL, which meant spending some time in the minor leagues. But not long after the Olympics, he got jumped during a game and needed to have his jaw wired shut, and not long after that he decided it wasn't worth it. So he too headed to Europe to play professionally (with longtime linemate Mark Pavelich) before spending some more time on U.S. national teams. He joined Phil as the only two returnees on the '84 Olympic team, and was named alternate captain (and, unlike Bill Baker in 1980, he actually got to wear the A!). Unfortunately Bah fractured his wrist during the pre-Olympic season which had him sidelined for a pretty good chunk of time. He didn't score any points during the '84 Olympics, but this is where the Internet is failing me. His injury kept him out until late January, and the Olympics started in very early February. So he may have received very limited playing time, and even if he didn't, he was probably pretty rusty. But I can't find any solid facts, so unless someone wants to personally ask Bah what the deal was, all we can do right now is speculate. (Guys, the struggle is real.)

And how about a little bonus?!
I couldn't talk about Olympic appearances and not talk about Herb Brooks, right? ;) If you've seen Miracle, you're probably familiar with part of Herb's story; he was the last man cut from the roster of the 1960 Olympic team. And that team went on to win USA Hockey's first ever Olympic gold medal. The "original miracle," if you will. But what often gets lost in the shuffle is that Herb did get his Olympic moment. Two of them, actually. He made the team (for real this time) in 1964, and was even named captain of the team in 1968. He scored one goal and one assist in 1964, and two assists in 1968. Those teams finished fifth and sixth, respectively, but it's hard to even be mad since Herb's failure to get a medal drove him to do what he did in 1980. But what's crazy is what happened after 1980; USA Hockey failed to win another Olympic medal of any color until Herb was back as head coach in 2002, when the team won silver. (That's nuts. I'm not the only person that thinks that's nuts, right?) He also coached the French Olympic team in 1998. They finished in 11th place (out of 14 teams), but France hasn't even qualified for the Olympics since 2002 so 11th place sounds like a win to me!

In conclusion: no NHL, no problem. ;)

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