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)