Miracle on Ice project works to preserve 1980 site
Over the last 30 years, the story of the "Miracle on Ice" at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., has been told and retold to the point that the historical event has become a modern American folk tale. Team USA's gold-medal journey has been relived in Hollywood and documentary films, literature, contemporary and retrospective journalism, and most of all, in the recollections of the countless Americans and hockey fans in general who witnessed the most improbable of sporting dreams come true.
Apart from its crucial role in spurring the subsequent growth of American hockey, its importance in rebuilding American morale at a troubled time in U.S. history and the event's sheer drama, the Miracle on Ice holds deeply personal meaning to anyone who lived through the magical events that unfolded in Lake Placid. Indeed, whenever the subject of Olympic hockey comes up, people share their memories of where they were when the Miracle on Ice happened.
But how many people whose lives have been inspired by the story have taken a pilgrimage to the site where the climactic events of the story unfolded? The arena in Lake Placid that now bears the name of the late coach of the American team is in need of repair and upkeep. A non-profit project is under way to transform Herb Brooks Arena into a living monument to the Miracle on Ice, both for current and future generations.
Herb Brooks Arena (Courtesy: Charles Bastie)
Under the auspices of the Village of Lake Placid and the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) and the curatorial direction of Liz DeFazio, the process of planning a facility makeover has begun. The first tangible steps likely are to involve the preservation of Dressing Room No. 5, the room where Team USA got ready for its historic come-from-behind victory over the mighty Soviet team on Feb. 22, 1980. The current museum plan includes a proposal to create a profile for each Team USA player located in the individual stall where he dressed. This will include a photo of each player, his bio and possibly his Olympic stats.
Unfortunately, there are limited government funds available to undertake the project. Funding has been cut each and every year, and the current fiscal year has been particularly steep, with the economy still in a precarious state. As a result, the financial groundwork for the project will have to come through private funding.
As is often the case, prominent members of the hockey community have begun to take up the cause to get the Miracle museum project going. Among the most vocal advocates of honoring the Miracle on Ice squad is 2010 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Jeremy Roenick. Ten years old at the time of the Games of Lake Placid, Roenick can recall a time when American players in the NHL were few and far between, and there was a lack of instantly recognizable American hockey heroes for aspiring players to pattern themselves after. The Miracle team changed that for good, capturing the hearts of Americans to a degree that even the 1960 gold-medal winning U.S. hockey team was unable to achieve.
"I think it's important for us to give something back to honor those guys. You can't overstate the importance of what they did. What that team accomplished is unbelievable to this day, and they blazed the trail for those of us who came afterwards," said Roenick, who represented Team USA at the World Junior Championships (1988, 1989), 1991 IIHF World Championships, 1991 Canada Cup, the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano and 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
In order for the Miracle project to be realized fully, it is going to take a team effort between private and corporate donors, the hockey community at large and the public sector. One of the fund-raising organizers, Chuck Bastie, believes the legacy of the 1980 Olympic team is one that, above all else, shows what people can accomplish when they band together for a worthwhile goal. A native Canadian, Bastie says the lesson of the Miracle on Ice is universal.
"The Miracle on Ice story transcends nationality. It's a human-interest story used by the sport of hockey to show what can really be done with the right attitude," he said. "It's the greatest sports story of all time, because it's so outlandish to think that a team of 20 American amateurs could beat the world's greatest team when it counted most: on a world stage, on home soil, at the Olympics and against your sworn enemy. It inspired an entire generation and left its mark in history forever. That in itself comes by once in a lifetime, so why wouldn't you celebrate it?"