Tag: Hockey Day In America


How the Miracle on Ice reunion came together


LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Wayne Gretzky played a small role in inspiring Saturday’s “Relive the Miracle,” the first time all living 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey players will unite in Lake Placid since they won gold.

About one year ago, Gretzky was asked to appear at an event (not in Lake Placid) but had to decline, said Jeff Holbrook, Gretzky’s representative. So, Holbrook found replacements in 1980 U.S. Olympians Mike Ramsey and Dave Christian.

After the event, Holbrook said Ramsey asked if he could find similar opportunities for appearances. That got Holbrook thinking. Hey, the 35-year anniversary of the Miracle on Ice is coming up.

“I started putting all the pieces together,” Holbrook said Thursday while sitting inside Herb Brooks Arena, where the U.S. stunned the Soviet Union 4-3 at the 1980 Winter Games.

More about reunion during Hockey Day in America, Sunday at noon on NBC and online

Holbrook, formerly the Arizona Coyotes executive vice president, bounced thoughts off Gretzky and ran ideas up the NHL flagpole to deputy commissioner Bill Daly. Maybe they could get the team together at an NHL event, such as the Winter Classic. Or have a single NHL team take it over, such as when the Coyotes brought several players to a game last February.

Further along, Holbrook realized it would be best to do it in Lake Placid, where the 1980 Winter Olympics still live outside Main Street window displays and inside, on looped highlights around the hockey arena.

“Having them all together here means a lot more than having them all together in Rochester, or some place,” Holbrook said, conjuring one of Brooks’ lines from the 2004 film “Miracle.” “Coming here probably pushes them over the edge [to want to come], where maybe in the past they wouldn’t have.”

When all 19 living players (of 20 total) gather here Saturday, it’s believed to be their first full reunion since Brooks’ death in 2003 (forward Mark Pavelich reportedly attended the wake but not the funeral). The only other full reunion since 1980 was for an NHL All-Star weekend event in Los Angeles in 2002 (pictured).

Details of Saturday night’s ‘Relive the Miracle’ event

Arranging reunions proved so difficult that not even the honor of lighting the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic cauldron was a 20-for-20 success.

But starting last January, Holbrook began texting, emailing, calling and even meeting face to face with the 20 members of the 1980 U.S. team.

“It wasn’t as easy as sending out an email saying, ‘Do you want to come?'” he joked. “There’s a reason why it hasn’t been done in 35 years.”

In initial player conversations last spring and summer, the impetus was to do this now, while everybody is still alive.

One of the players whom Holbrook spoke with in person was defenseman Bob Suter, at an NHL playoff game last season. Suter was on board for the reunion, but he died of a heart attack in September. Suter’s jersey will be raised to the rafters to climax Saturday night.

“In a weird way, that’s why everyone is here,” said Todd Walsh, the Arizona Coyotes broadcaster who will moderate Saturday night’s chronological look back with the players before an expected crowd of about 5,000. “I think with Bob going, it’s a reminder of everyone’s mortality. That’s just my sense.”

Then there’s the reclusive Pavelich. In addition to Brooks’ funeral, he was also not present for the 2002 Olympic cauldron lighting, according to reports from Salt Lake City.

Holbrook said teammates including Buzz Schneider and John Harrington reached out to Pavelich and, importantly, stayed on him until he committed.

Pavelich was on his way to Lake Placid as of Thursday night, driving with two dogs from Oregon with a stop in Minnesota.

“I think the fact that he is coming I think pushed other guys over the edge to be here, too,” said Holbrook, managing partner of Potentia Athletic Partners. “If it wasn’t Lake Placid, I don’t know if Mark would have come.”

Holbrook, a 13-year-old playing Space Invaders when the Miracle happened, said he’s dedicated one year of his life to making the reunion happen. He also stressed help from his family, co-workers and the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) that manages the 1980 Olympic facilities.

“I’ve seen presidents of countries cower in Wayne’s presence,” Holbrook said of Gretzky. “I didn’t think I could ever see anything that elicits that sort of response from people. This is the only thing that really does, to me. When you talk about this to people, they always get the same look on their face.”

The biggest challenge of the endeavor is yet to come, Holbrook said. That’s the event Saturday night, the eve of the 35-year anniversary of the Miracle game.

“Knowing how important it is to people,” Holbrook said. “We can’t screw it up.”

Walsh, who has spent nearly two decades as a Coyotes broadcaster, has butterflies, too.

“I can’t even wrap my head around the fact that I’ll be up there,” Walsh said, looking down as workers constructed the stage on what is usually an ice rink, in his first five minutes inside Herb Brooks Arena. “I kid you not. I don’t even know what to say.”

Photos: Herb Brooks’ Miracle on Ice items up for auction

Miracle on Ice reunion set for Saturday, ahead of Hockey Day in America


LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — The “Relive the Miracle” reunion at Herb Brooks Arena on Saturday night, bringing together all living 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey players to the site of their gold medal for the first time in 35 years, will not be broadcast live.

Perhaps that’s the way it should be. After all, the Miracle on Ice game was first shown on tape delay in the U.S. on Feb. 22, 1980.

Since then, small groups from the 20-man team convened for various appearances, but it’s believed they’ve all been together twice and never in Lake Placid. Some are grandfathers now.

“I guess when I look in the mirror, and I see all the gray hair, I guess time has gone by,” said Mark Johnson, the forward who scored twice in the 4-3 victory over the Soviets.

More about reunion during Hockey Day in America, Sunday at noon on NBC and online

The most well-known names, such as captain Mike Eruzione and goalie Jim Craig, fill their calendars with speaking engagements and events, even in small towns.

This week, Eruzione video chatted with high school students in Monon, Ind., population 2,000. Craig attended a minor-league hockey game in Pensacola, Fla., on Tuesday night.

“It’s never been exploited beyond reasonable means,” said Todd Walsh, the longtime Arizona Coyotes broadcaster who will moderate Saturday night’s event. “It still is in the cradle of what happened that night. It’s never been ruined by American culture. It’s almost untouchable.”

How the 1980 U.S. Olympic team reunion came together

“Relive the Miracle” will recreate 1980 with the players and through pictures and video on a large screen inside Herb Brooks Arena, known as the Olympic Fieldhouse when the U.S. hockey team stunned the Soviets and went on to capture gold.

The event will run chronologically through four segments — “The Journey,” “The Steps,” “The Miracle” and “The Gold.”

It will conclude with the raising of defenseman Bob Suter‘s jersey to the rafters. Suter died of a heart attack in September, becoming the first member of the team to pass away, and in a way helping drive the rest of the players to reunite while they still can. Coach Herb Brooks died in 2003.

“I guess every anniversary has a different meaning,” Eruzione said. “It’s a little bittersweet.”

On Sunday, NBC will celebrate Hockey Day in America with studio coverage on site in Lake Placid on the exact 35-year anniversary date of the Miracle on Ice. The broadcast will start at noon ET, include Olympian interviews and a feature on forward Mark Wells.

Al Michaels, who uttered the famous “Do you believe in miracles?” line on the 1980 broadcast, will have a small role in the weekend’s events.

Eruzione said strangers tell him they remember where they were for four events in their lives — when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, 9/11 and the Miracle on Ice.

“To think that a moment can capture a nation,” Eruzione said.

Eruzione wishes the team could get together more often.

“When we’re together, we’re almost like little kids,” he said. “Very, very immature in our behavior.”

Photos: Herb Brooks’ Miracle on Ice items up for auction

Hockey Day in America: Two tiny Minnesota towns present best rivalry in high school hockey

roseau vs warroad

Happy Hockey Day in America! Be sure to check out PHT throughout the day as we bring you features and previews of all the events, including a nine-hour NHL block of programming across NBC and NBC Sports Network.

People often call Minnesota the “State of Hockey.” If that’s true, one could say that the rivalry between Roseau and Warroad represents both its bleeding heart and its hockey-obsessed mind.

As this great little trailer shows, the two towns likely generated the best hockey success per capita of any in the United States. Want more proof? Just take a look at some of the simple numbers:

Warroad, MN
Population: 1,722
two indoor ice rinks
five state titles

Roseau, MN
Population: 2,879
three indoor ice rinks
seven state titles

The trailer provides some mind-numbing perspective on the ratio of population-to-NHL-players: if New York City generated pros at the same level, the city would produce 27,693 NHL players. (That’s enough for “41 National Hockey Leagues.”)

Perhaps it can be explained by the fact that the two towns are a mere stone’s throw from Canada, but their rivalry generates the kind of white-hot focus that earns them the designation of being hockey’s answer to “Friday Night Lights.”

Dustin Byfuglien is the most notable contemporary NHL player to emerge from Roseau, but he’s far from the only guy to make a big impact on the sport. Here’s a list of some of the NHL players from the slightly larger town:


Earl Anderson
Mike Baumgartner
Neal Broten
Aaron Broten
Paul Broten
Dustin Byfuglien
Bryan Erickson
Aaron Ness
Dale Smedsmo

Aside from Byfuglien, the Broten family stands out – particularly Neal. He was a significant contributor to the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team, scored 923 points in 1,099 NHL games and had his number retired by the Dallas Stars.

Meanwhile, T.J. Oshie is the most noteworthy modern Warroad product, but that town has its own historic heroes. Check out some of their most noteworthy NHL players:


Henry Boucha
Dave Christian
Al Hangleben
T.J. Oshie

Much like Roseau, Warroad has a “Miracle on Ice” connection in Christian, who also managed to score 773 points in his 1,009-game NHL career.


If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to experience the passion that Texans have for high school football or the hockey equivalent of Indiana’s obsession with basketball, look no further than those two small northern Minnesota towns. They’re small in size and population, but it’s clear that they have a Byfuglien-sized love for the game.

(Image courtesy RoseauHockeyOnline.com)

Play NBC Sports’ Hockey Day in America MVP Challenge


Over at the NHL on NBC Sports Facebook page, there’s a new pick’em game available for play — the Hockey Day in America MVP Challenge.

The game rules are as follows:

1) Use the Hockey Day in America Challenge Facebook App.

2) Pick who you think will win the following five games: Pittsburgh Penguins at Buffalo Sabres (NBC, 12:30 PM ET), San Jose Sharks at Detroit Red Wings (NBC, 12:30 PM ET), St. Louis Blues at Chicago Blackhawks (NBC, 12:30 PM ET), Boston Bruins at Minnesota Wild (NBC, 3:30 PM ET), New Jersey Devils at Montreal Canadiens (NBC Sports Network, 6:00 PM ET).

3) Choose the number of total goals you think will be scored in all five Hockey Day in America games.

4) Make sure to fill out your picks by Sunday, 12:00 PM ET.

The entrant that correctly predicts each winner and total number of goals scored will be named the MVP and featured on the NHL on NBC Sports Facebook page.

In case you need help making your picks, here are some from PHT’s Mike Halford and Jason Brough:

Pittsburgh at Buffalo

Halford: The Sabres were embarrassed 8-3 the last time they faced the Penguins, so there’s a revenge factor at play. There’s also the fatigue issue — Pittsburgh plays Philly on Saturday — so I’m going with Buffalo.

Brough: Don’t look now, but the Sabres are playing…not terrible. Buffalo wins in a squeaker.

San Jose at Detroit

Halford: I see no reason to pick against a team that’s won 21 straight at home. Detroit.

Brough: The Wings have been unbeatable at the Joe, but I’m going with the Sharks because there’s a small chance I could look like a genius and I’m used to looking dumb.

St. Louis at Chicago

Halford: These two have split the season series (1-1), but both games were at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. This one will be at the United Center, where the ‘Hawks are 19-6-4 this year. I’ll take Chicago.

Brough: Here’s my theory — the ‘Hawks will be so happy to get home after nine straight games away from the United Center that they’ll come out with a ton of positive energy. And if that doesn’t work, the Blues aren’t a great road team anyway. Chicago still wins.

Boston at Minnesota

Halford:The Wild were tops in the NHL on Dec. 10. Today, they’re in 21st. That has a lot to do with the fact they’ve gone 5-16-5 over the last 26 games. As such, I’m rolling with Boston.

Brough: How bad are the Wild? The Wild are so bad they lost at home to Columbus last week. Easy win for the B’s here.

New Jersey at Montreal

Halford: Have to like what Ilya Kovalchuk’s doing for the Devils right now. He’s ninth in league scoring (56 points) while playing almost 25 minutes a night, most among all NHL forwards. Riding the hot hand here, taking New Jersey.

Brough: This one’s a coin toss. So I’m going to toss a coin. And the coin has come up…Habs.

As for total goals scored, both Halford and Brough went with 25.

Hey, it’s a 3-2 league. Just ask Darryl Sutter.

Five NHL on NBC weekends we’re already geeked out for this season

Nicklas Lidstrom, Zdeno Chara

After getting plenty of time to look over the national TV schedule and taking a look at what we’ll have on future weekends on NBC, there’s a few days that stand out for us even before training camp has started. With the host of featured events that will be going on throughout the season, that helps make things easier to narrow down.

That said, we’re going to keep ourselves limited to just five games that we’ve got our interest piqued by the most.

1. November 25 – Boston Bruins vs. Detroit Red Wings, 1 p.m. ET

It’s the first of what is going to be an annual game on Black Friday. You spent the morning chasing bargains at the stores the day after Thanksgiving and you’ve still got a fantastic turkey hangover. What’s better to relax after a morning of fighting the crowds than settling in to watch the first NBC game of the year? Making it all the better is that it’s an original six match-up featuring the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins at home against the Detroit Red Wings.

You’ll get anything and everything you could ask for in one game. Great goaltending? Sure, Tim Thomas is the man in Boston. Tremendous offensive firepower? Yup, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will be hoping to beat Thomas. Added to that, you’ll see two of the league’s best defensemen in Boston’s Zdeno Chara and 41 year-old future Hall Of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom for Detroit. Since you’ll be hurting for great sports to watch on Black Friday, getting this game as your afternoon headliner makes the day even better.

2. January 2 – Philadelphia Flyers vs. New York Rangers, 1 p.m. ET

Right now it’s inauspiciously listed as a regular afternoon game in Philadelphia, but at some point in the near future it’ll be announced as the 2012 Winter Classic from Citizens Bank Park in Philly. If you haven’t been thrilled by past Winter Classic games… What’s the matter with you? This time around, the Flyers get to host the event after playing in the 2010 Winter Classic in Boston. They’ll get to show off this summer’s pickups in Ilya Bryzgalov, Jaromir Jagr, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, and Brayden Schenn to go along with Daniel Briere and Claude Giroux.

Having the Rangers make their first appearance in the Winter Classic means getting this summer’s top free agent pickup Brad Richards into the mix. Having him paired up with Marian Gaborik as well as Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky with superstar goalie Henrik Lundqvist in goal the Rangers have plenty of star power of their own. Perhaps the only other thing we’re anticipating more than the Winter Classic between these two rivals themselves is HBO’s 24/7 featuring both teams. Bryzgalov and his wild statements in Philly compared to Sean Avery and John Tortorella in New York? Sold.

3. January 22 – Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Washington Capitals or Philadelphia Flyers vs. Boston Bruins, 3 p.m. ET

Which side of drama would you like with your mid-January afternoon tilt? When last we saw the Penguins and Capitals on NBC in January, it was the 2011 Winter Classic from Heinz Field. That’s also the last time we saw Sidney Crosby on the main stage in a nationally televised game. We can only hope that we’ll get to highlight a Crosby-Alex Ovechkin matchup in this one.

If that’s not the sort of story line you’re interested in, how about a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference playoff sweep between the Flyers and Bruins? Two seasons ago the Flyers came back from down 3-0 in their series with the Bruins to win in seven games. The Bruins would use that crushing defeat to motivate them to humiliate the Flyers in a 4-0 sweep last season on their way to winning the Stanley Cup. With the Flyers being differently loaded and the Bruins still running a bruising team with Tim Thomas in goal out there, it’s easy to say it’ll be a rough and tumble game.

4. February 19 – Hockey Day In America

Hockey Day In America is once again going to be a huge day. With a broadcast doubleheader featuring three regional games to kick off the afternoon (San Jose-Detroit, Pittsburgh-Buffalo, St. Louis-Chicago) followed up by a national broadcast featuring the Bruins going to Minnesota to take on Dany Heatley and the Wild it’ll make for a huge day of events.

While the Wild and Bruins get the main game that afternoon, seeing new rivalries like Sharks-Wings and Penguins-Sabres sharing the day along with an old school rivalry like Blues-Blackhawks gives us the kind of warm fuzzies you need on a mid-February day. With that much hockey to be watched in a day there’s no way you can lose.

5. March 18 – Philadelphia Flyers vs. Pittsburgh Penguins or Chicago Blackhawks vs. Washington Capitals, 3 p.m. ET

With this day being a flex schedule, there’s two potential games to make it to NBC that afternoon and either way, we’re going to wind up winners. Either we’ll be showing off Jaromir Jagr suiting up in Flyers orange at home against his first franchise and (hopefully) Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in a battle of Eastern super powers or we’ll see the new and likely improved Washington Capitals with Tomas Vokoun joining Alex Ovechkin and Alex Semin against Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and the tougher Blackhawks.

While the Pens-Flyers game is sure to be oozing with drama as the teams hate each other and now have offseason heat thanks to Jagr and Maxime Talbot winding up in Philly, Caps-Hawks has enough talent out on the ice to make it look like the second All-Star Game of the year.

Making the choices easier for these two games is the fact that whichever game doesn’t end up on NBC that afternoon winds up on NBC Sports Network (currently Versus) later that night thanks to the flex scheduling arrangement.