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Look at 'Miracle on Ice' players after Lake Placid

Neal Broten, Dave Christian among five to go on to lengthy NHL career

by John Kreiser @jkreiser7713 / NHL.com Managing Editor

With the perspective of 37 years, the "Miracle on Ice" can seem even more miraculous now than it did in 1980, when a team of United States college kids and amateurs stunned the world by winning the gold medal at the Lake Placid Olympics. Their 6-0-1 record included an unforgettable 4-3 victory against the supposedly unbeatable Soviet Union in their next-to-last game, followed by a come-from-behind 4-2 win against Finland 36 hours later for the gold.

Coach Herb Brooks knitted a collection of disparate skills and personalities into a cohesive unit that did what most people thought would be impossible. Perhaps most amazing were the players he won with: Of the 20 players, five had a substantial NHL career -- and seven never played an NHL game.

 

Lengthy NHL career (500+ games)

 

Neal Broten, C

The oldest of the three Broten brothers to play in the NHL, he had the most points of any of the 20 Olympians. One year after winning gold with the U.S. at Lake Placid, Broten was playing for the Minnesota North Stars in the Stanley Cup Final. He scored 38 goals and 98 points as an NHL rookie in 1981-82, had an NHL career-high 105 points in 1985-86 and got his Stanley Cup four months after being traded to the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 27, 1995. Broten had 923 points (289 goals, 634 assists) in 1,099 NHL games.

 

Dave Christian, F

Christian, whose father and uncle helped the U.S. win gold in 1960, went right from Lake Placid to the Winnipeg Jets, scoring eight goals in 15 games at the end of the 1979-80 season. He spent 15 seasons in the NHL with the Jets, Washington Capitals, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks, scoring 20 or more goals 10 times, including a career best of 41 with Washington in 1985-86. Christian retired in 1994 with 773 points (340 goals, 433 assists) in 1,009 NHL games.

 

Mark Johnson, C

The son of legendary coach Bob Johnson had 11 points (five goals, six assists) in seven games to lead the U.S. in scoring at Lake Placid. Two of the goals came in the win against the Soviet Union, including one that beat the first-period buzzer and tied the game 2-2. Johnson joined the Pittsburgh Penguins right after Lake Placid and played 669 NHL games with five teams, finishing with 508 points (203 goals, 305 assists). Johnson found success after his playing career as coach of the women's team at the University of Wisconsin, winning the NCAA championship four times.

 

Ken Morrow, D

Morrow has a distinction unlikely to be matched in hockey history: He went from a gold medal-winning Olympic team directly to one that won the Stanley Cup four years in a row. Morrow's arrival enabled New York Islanders general manager Bill Torrey to trade reliable defenseman Dave Lewis to the Los Angeles Kings in a deal that brought back center Butch Goring, who turned out to be the missing piece for New York. Morrow was a defensive defenseman who spent 10 seasons and played 550 games with the Islanders before injuries forced him to retire at age 32.

 

Mike Ramsey, D

Ramsey didn't have to travel far to join his NHL team after the U.S. won the gold medal; he went from Lake Placid to the Buffalo Sabres, who had selected him in the first round (No. 11) in the 1979 NHL Draft. Ramsey became a fixture on defense for more than a decade in Buffalo. He never reached double figures in goals, and his single-season high for points was 39, but he was among the most reliable defensive defensemen in the NHL until he retired after playing the last two of his 1,070 NHL games for the Detroit Red Wings in 1996-97.

 

Shorter NHL career (100-500 games)

 

Bill Baker, D

The hero of the tournament-opening 2-2 tie with Sweden (his late goal gave the U.S. a point), was a third-round selection (No. 54) by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1976 draft. He played 11 games for the Canadiens in 1980-81 before being traded to the Colorado Rockies. Colorado traded him to St. Louis in 1981-82, and he scored his first three NHL goals with the Blues. Baker played 70 of his 143 NHL games for the New York Rangers in 1982-83, but after one more season in the minors, he left hockey to become an oral surgeon.

 

Steve Christoff, C

The Minnesota native was an instant hit with the hometown North Stars after Lake Placid, finishing with 15 points (eight goals, seven assists) in 20 regular-season games. He scored 26 goals in each of the next two seasons and had 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) to help the North Stars advance to the 1981 Stanley Cup Final (a five-game loss to Morrow and the Islanders). Though Christoff was popular in Minnesota, the North Stars traded him to the Calgary Flames on June 7, 1982. He played one season with the Flames and one with the Kings before retiring, having scored 77 goals in 248 games.

 

Rob McClanahan, C

McClanahan never showed the kind of offensive skills in the NHL that he'd demonstrated with the U.S. national and Olympic teams. He joined the Sabres after the Olympics but saw action in more than 53 games in an NHL season just once; in 1982-83, playing for Brooks with the Rangers, McClanahan had 48 points (22 goals, 26 assists) in 78 games. He split the 1983-84 season between the Rangers and Tulsa of the Central Hockey League before retiring after scoring 101 points (38 goals, 63 assists) in 224 NHL games.

 

Jack O'Callahan, D

An injury limited O'Callahan, who had starred at Boston University, to four games at Lake Placid. After two seasons in the American Hockey League, O'Callahan joined the Blackhawks, who had taken him in the sixth round (No. 96) in the 1977 draft. O'Callahan played five seasons with Chicago and two with the New Jersey before retiring in 1989 after playing 389 NHL games.

 

Mark Pavelich, C

No NHL team had drafted Pavelich, so after helping the U.S. win gold at Lake Placid, he spent the 1980-81 season playing in Switzerland. The Rangers, now coached by Brooks, signed him for the 1981-82 season, and he was an immediate hit; Pavelich scored 33, 37 and 29 goals in his first three seasons, and became the first U.S. player to score five goals in a game on Feb. 23, 1983. He played six seasons with the Rangers and one with the North Stars, and then played three seasons in Europe before finishing his career by playing two games with the San Jose Sharks in 1991-92. Pavelich had 329 points (137 goals, 192 assists) in 355 NHL games.

 

Dave Silk, F

The Rangers had drafted Silk in the fourth round (No. 59) in 1978, and he signed with New York on March 3, 1980. The Boston native spent three seasons with the Rangers organization before he was traded to the Bruins on Oct. 5, 1983. He also played with Detroit and Winnipeg before finishing his career by playing in Germany for five seasons, retiring in 1991. Silk had 113 points (54 goals, 59 assists) in 249 NHL games.

 

Short NHL career

 

Jim Craig, G

Craig's performance in goal was probably the biggest reason for the U.S. victory, but his success at Lake Placid didn't carry over to the NHL. After the Olympics, Craig joined the Atlanta Flames, who had taken him in the fourth round (No. 72) of the 1977 draft. He won his NHL debut with the Flames, defeating the Rockies 4-1 in front of a packed house in Atlanta, but went 1-2-1 in four appearances before being traded to the Bruins on June 2, 1980. The Boston-area native went 9-7-6 with the Bruins in 1980-81, and then spent two seasons in the minors before playing three games with the North Stars in 1983-84. Craig went 11-10-7 with a 3.78 goals-against average in 30 NHL games.

 

Steve Janaszak, G

Craig's backup was the only U.S. player who never saw any ice time during the 1980 Olympics. He played three NHL games, going 0-1-1 with a 5.63 GAA with the North Stars and Rockies.

 

Never played in NHL

 

Mike Eruzione, F

The former Boston University star who scored the goal that defeated the Soviet Union had never been drafted by an NHL team; he played two seasons in the minors before joining the 1980 Olympic team. Eruzione reportedly had an offer to join the Rangers after Lake Placid but opted to retire instead.

 

John Harrington, F

Harrington played in the minors and overseas after Lake Placid. He played for the U.S. at the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics, then spent two decades as a college coach and three more seasons coaching overseas.

 

Buzz Schneider, F

The only holdover from the 1976 U.S. Olympic team, Schneider scored five goals in seven games in 1980, including one in the win against the Soviet Union. He had played four games in the World Hockey Association during the 1976-77 season but never played in the NHL. After Lake Placid, he played in Switzerland until 1983.

 

Eric Strobel, F

Strobel had three points (one goal, two assists) for the U.S. at Lake Placid, then signed with the Sabres and was sent to Rochester of the AHL. He broke his ankle a month later and played briefly in the minors the following season before retiring.

 

Bob Suter, D

Suter didn't have a point at the Olympics and never played an NHL game despite having been drafted by the Kings and later signing with the North Stars. He became a youth hockey coach and later scouted for the Minnesota Wild, who signed his son, defenseman Ryan Suter, on July 4, 2012. Bob Suter died Sept. 10, 2014; he was the first player from the 1980 team to pass away.

 

Phil Verchota, F

The former University of Minnesota star scored the biggest of his three goals at Lake Placid in the third period of the final game against Finland, converting a pass from Christian to tie the game 2-2. He played for a season in Finland, later rejoined the U.S. national team and played in the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics before retiring.

 

Mark Wells, C

Wells starred at Bowling Green University and had three points (two goals, one assist) in seven games at Lake Placid. He played two-plus seasons in the minor leagues before retiring from hockey.

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