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A lot has changed since 1980's 'Miracle on Ice'

by John McGourty
The gold-medal-winning 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team "cared more about each other than any other team or business I've ever been with," Jim Craig, the goalie on that "Miracle On Ice" team, said Friday during a USA Hockey teleconference.

Craig was joined by team captain Mike Eruzione, defensemen Jack O'Callahan and Bob Suter and assistant coach Craig Patrick. Suter is the father of Nashville Predators defenseman Ryan Suter, who will be an alternate captain on Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

The paths of father and son show how much American hockey has changed in the 30 years since the nation's last Olympic gold medal.

Ryan Suter is a product of the United States National Team Development Program, funded by USA Hockey. He won gold medals for the United States in World Under-17, World Under-18 and World Junior Championships. Ryan Suter then played a year at the University of Wisconsin before jumping to professional hockey.

When Bob Suter played for Wisconsin in 1977-79, that was the highest level that the majority of American players could reach. There was only a handful of Americans in the NHL.

While Ryan Suter has the governing body of American hockey backing him and his teammates, Bob Suter said the 1980 team was on a pay-as-you-go basis.

"Herb Brooks brought us to camp in Burnsville, Minn., and we had only 10 home games and 50 games on the road. We had to fund-raise a lot of our way. Every city we went to and every game we played was a charity event and fundraiser." -- Bob Suter

"Herb Brooks brought us to camp in Burnsville, Minn., and we had only 10 home games and 50 games on the road," Bob Suter said. "We had to fund-raise a lot of our way. Every city we went to and every game we played was a charity event and fundraiser."

Assistant coach Craig Patrick said the caring between players stemmed from something Brooks told him well before the team ever got to Lake Placid, N.Y..

"Two things stick out," Patrick said. "The first one is the job Herb Brooks did and that's been well documented. He had everything planned more than a year in advance. When I sat down with him, he told me what my job would be and it played out perfectly. I've never seen a team better prepared in hockey or any sport than that team. He had that team play so many systems, do so many different forechecks. Even today in the NHL, they don't do that.

"Second, he told me we had two factions and they don't like each other. He said the only way he knew to get them together was to be a tough coach and he said he needed me to be the good shepherd and herd them together. It worked out well that way."

All of the panelists agreed that the nature of the upset over the great Soviet team accentuated the "David vs. Goliath" concept and has perhaps obscured how talented that American team was.

"Nobody understands the amount of talent that team had," Patrick said. "I had been away from amateur hockey for 10 years and it was my first glance at the young American talent that summer in Colorado Springs. I was amazed at the talent level there. A lot of guys not on that team were very talented too. Herb knew a year before who would be on that team, within one or two players."

Joining the players were broadcaster Al Michaels, who will return to Olympic broadcasting for the first time since 1980 and USA Hockey Executive Director David Ogrean, who was the public-relations director for the 1980 team.

"Those last few days in Lake Placid were the most transcendent moment in American hockey," Ogrean said. "To this day every time we come up on an Olympic Games, everyone thinks of 1980 and the "Miracle on Ice."

Michaels has long been lauded for his famous call at the end of the semifinal game against the Soviets, "Do you believe in miracles? Yes!" He found a nice way to put his call in context.

"I was in the right place at the right time," Michaels said. "Those guys wrote a beautiful melody. All I did was write one lyric."
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