The Maley family took a trip in the summer of 1979 to Colorado. We packed up the van and my parents, two younger brothers Brian and Brennan, along with my sister Karen took off for the road trip from Minnesota to Aspen, Colorado. The “vacation” was planned around two events. The first was for us boys to attend the late Badger, Bob Johnson’s, hockey school. The other draw, along with visiting the Walsh family who are dear hockey friends of ours from Cedarburg Wisconsin, was to watch the week long tryouts for the USA 1980 Olympic team.
Both the Maley and the Walsh family watched each day of the tryouts at the small Broadmoor Ice Arena. The players that were invited to tryout were divided into four teams. Each day they would either play a game or have a light practice. Between the Walsh and the Maley family, we decided to individually cut players as the tryouts went on. My favorite memory about that is when my brother Brian cut Kenny Morrow on the first day! A year later, after the Islanders won the cup and Ken Morrow hoisted Lord Stanley with the Olympic Gold in his back pocket, Mr. Walsh sent my brother a t-shirt that read “Kenny Morrow’s Fan Club.” To this day we have not let Brian live that one down.
After they picked the team, my father did some investigating and found out the newly chosen team was having their first practice at a local rink. You have to remember that back then nobody was really at the rink to watch the tryouts as most of the players were from the Midwest or back East. So, the Maley family decided to spend another vacation day at the rink, watching the first practice. We were the only people in the rink as the players took to the ice. About ten minutes into the practice, the late Herb Brooks waved my father over to the glass to talk with him. I can remember Herb talking and gesturing over to my 16 year old sister, Karen, and smiling along with my father nodding. After the conversation my father came to us and said that the coach kindly asked for us to leave the arena. My Dad continued, saying that Coach Brooks complimented him on having a beautiful daughter but that his players were pretty distracted!
The next week during the first day of Bob Johnson’s hockey camp both Mark Johnson and Bob Suter (Gary’s older brother) skated onto the ice. I can remember it like it was yesterday. They both wore their red, white, and blue USA sweats. Mark Johnson showed us some stick-handling technique that I had never seen before. He could move the puck around so fast that it was a blur! When I went home I spent the rest of the summer and the next few years practicing what he showed us that day.
I cannot put into words what it was like to watch a team whose selection I had witnessed and whose players I was honored to meet in person, win the gold medal. The whole Maley family felt just a little closer to team USA when they won.
Seventeen years later, at a hockey equipment show in Vegas, I ran into Coach Brooks. I introduced myself and he said he knew who I was which floored me, but from the stories I’ve heard over the years it’s been clear that coach Brooks knew of everyone that either played or was involved with the sport of hockey! I told him the story of our trip and we laughed together and talked about the state of the game at that time---a conversation I will cherish forever.