‘Relive the Miracle’ reunion emotional for 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team

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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — The final 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey player arrived at Herb Brooks Arena at 7:23, seven minutes before the “Relive the Miracle” ceremony began.

Jim Craig was escorted into a ready room by New York State Police. “He made it!” one player exclaimed. The show billed as the first time since 1980 that all living Miracle on Ice players gathered in Lake Placid could go on.

“This is mind-boggling,” team captain Mike Eruzione said. “We came here 35 years ago never thinking or dreaming or believing this thing would happen.”

The scoreboard at a rink formerly known as the Olympic Fieldhouse read USA 4, URS 3, just as it did on Feb. 22, 1980.

The 19 men sat below it, wearing replicas of their white Olympic jerseys and sat on a stage, in elevated wooden chairs, to recall the Lake Placid Games with a moderator.

A few thousand fans filled the arena. Often, they broke into “U-S-A” chants. An American flag draped over section 22.

The chronological ceremony was spliced with video of the Miracle on Ice, the 2004 film “Miracle” and the coach Brooks saying before the Olympics that the U.S. was unlikely to win a medal.

It ended with the No. 20 jersey of Bob Suter being raised amid more “U-S-A” chants. The Wisconsin defenseman was the first member of the team to die after he suffered a heart attack on Sept. 9.

In between, the players joked, more about Brooks than anyone else, the team’s two goalies shared a memorable embrace and Suter’s son, the Minnesota Wild’s Ryan Suter, delivered a touching video message about his father.

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

Forward Dave Christian said seeing 18 teammates brought him immediately back to 1980. Craig jetted in after watching his daughter’s final college hockey game, a 5-3 Colgate Raiders loss in Troy, N.Y.

“I’m ready to go out and play the game again,” Christian said.

The players passed microphones on the stage as highlights played on giant raised screens to their left and right, sandwiching an oversized American flag. Nobody spoke more than the captain Eruzione.

The “Miracle” film clips included Brooks’ speech before the Soviet game, of course, but also the scene after a pre-Olympic exhibition against Norway.

The Americans and Norwegians tied, 3-3, a result that disgusted Brooks, who had his players skate from line to line, over and over again, even after the arena’s lights were turned off.

“What was lost in the whole story is we played Norway the next day and beat them 8-0,” Eruzione said (though this website says it was 9-0).

Forward John Harrington regretted leaving at his home a notebook that he bought around Christmas 1979. In that notebook, he jotted Brooks’ sayings that became known as “Brooksisms.”

Craig made it a point to appreciate his backup, Steve Janaszak, who won an NCAA Championship under Brooks at Minnesota in 1979 but was the only member of the U.S. team not to play in the Olympics.

“Steve Janaszak was every bit a part of our team, whether he played one second or not,” Craig said.

Janaszak and Craig, Nos. 1 and 30 sitting on opposite sides of the stage, met at the middle with a hug.

Then, the players began reflecting on the Miracle on Ice. It’s been made to drip with political drama, but, as Al Michaels said on the broadcast, it was manifestly a hockey game.

“I don’t think half of us knew where the Soviet Union was,” Dave Silk joked. “If they asked us about [Mikhail] Gorbachev, we would’ve thought he was a left winger.”

Players said they respected and admired the Soviets rather than hating them.

“It was a matter of keeping the game close as long as we could,” said Mark Johnson, who scored to tie the game at 2-2 and 3-3.

Then, everybody turned to watch Eruzione’s game-deciding goal, assisted by Mark Pavelich, who drove in from Oregon (with a stop in Minnesota) this week, and by Harrington.

“You know, I could probably score this myself,” Harrington joked of the Eruzione goal. “But, as a great teammate of Mike’s, our captain, why don’t I pass it to him and let him make millions in the next 35 years.”

“If the roles were reversed, and you had the shot, it would have been wide and long,” Eruzione retorted.

Then, defenseman Jack O’Callahan spoke up.

“By the way, it’s been way more than millions,” he said.

They joked that a teammate got a piece of Eruzione’s shot and deflected it in. And that Eruzione’s eyes were closed when he shot.

“Open, closed, it didn’t matter,” Eruzione said. “It went right where it was supposed to be.”

The final two minutes of the Miracle on Ice game were played on the giant screens, ending with Al Michaels‘ “Do you believe in Miracles?” call being drowned out by the crowd’s applause.

Finally, Bob Suter’s No. 20 jersey was raised, an honor that son Ryan Suter said gave him goosebumps in a prerecorded video message.

The players filed out after the Star-Spangled Banner played to the backdrop of the video of Eruzione waving his teammates to join him on the podium 35 years ago.

“We still feel like it’s 20 [players],” O’Callahan said, “because Bobby’s up here with us.”

How the Miracle on Ice reunion came together

‘Miracle on Ice’ team will reunite for 35th anniversary

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The members of the 1980 United States “Miracle on Ice” Olympic team will reunite in Lake Placid, N.Y. on Saturday in celebration of the 35th anniversary of their defeat over the Soviet Union.

Fans can go to the Herb Brooks Arena, which will open its doors at 7:30 p.m. ET, to join the gold medal-winning team in reliving the historic event.

“To be able to share our story with fans has always been a pleasure, and given the 35th Anniversary is in 2015, this seems like a great time to reach as many people as possible,” retired NHL forward and 1980 Olympian Dave Christian said. “Honestly, sharing the stories never gets old, because it always ends with a smile on someone’s face.”

Bob Suter’s No. 20 will be raised to the rafters in his honor. Suter, the father of Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, passed away at the age of 57 on Sept. 9, 2014.

For more details, you can go here.

The following day is NBC’s Hockey Day in America, which will feature a contest between the Washington Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers at 12:30 p.m. ET followed by a 2013 Stanley Cup Final rematch between the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks at 3:00 p.m. ET. NBCSN will air the Stadium Series game between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks at 10:00 p.m. ET on Saturday and then the Dallas Stars’ contest versus the Minnesota Wild at 8:00 p.m. ET on Sunday.

NHL on NBCSN: Wild test turnaround against Blackhawks

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Minnesota Wild host the Chicago Blackhawks at the Xcel Energy Center at 8:00 p.m. ET today. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

The Minnesota Wild have been showing serious promise lately, but that progress will be tested on Tuesday as they face the Chicago Blackhawks.

A challenge amid a promising start

Assuming he gets the nod, the Blackhawks will test Devan Dubnyk, who is 5-1-0 as a member of the Wild since being traded from the Arizona Coyotes. For all the impressive work the 28-year-old goalie has done in his short stay with Minnesota, it’s worth noting that his wins have come against borderline playoff teams (Calgary, Vancouver) and squads that have often been downright dismal (Edmonton, Arizona).

What happens when Dubnyk and the Wild face one of the best teams (not to mention scoring attacks) in the NHL?

Blackhawks may not be at their best

Chicago is in the middle of a six-game road trip (seven if you count the game before the All-Star break) and (uh oh) just spent two days “bonding” in Las Vegas, so perhaps the Blackhawks are a little more vulnerable than usual. Going 6-7-0 in January argues that they’re not at their absolute best.

That’s good news for Minnesota, as Chicago has handled the season series so far, winning the first three games between these teams by a combined score of 13-6. Niklas Backstrom was in net for all those defeats, so the ‘Hawks will probably get a different look assuming Dubnyk starts this time around.

Daniel Carcillo is eligible to return from his latest suspension in this game. Ultimately, one would assume that the contest is more likely to come down to what stars like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter can accomplish.

Suter, for one, has been pretty banged up lately.

***

After some tough times, the Wild have at least a glimpse of optimism, but the Blackhawks serve as a useful measuring stick for how realistic their ambitions might be. It should be an intriguing game to watch on NBCSN tonight, then.

Suter keeps ironman streak alive with Wild

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It looked like Ryan Suter might miss his first game (at least because of an injury) with the Minnesota Wild on Sunday, but he opted to fight through it against the Vancouver Canucks, instead.

Not missing a game due to an ailment since joining Minnesota before the 2012-13 season would be an accomplishment out of context. When you consider the fact that the 30-year-old blueliner sees unparalleled ice time – his 29:29 TOI average once again tops all skaters – his durability is that much more remarkable.

Of course, sometimes ironman streaks come down to being willing to grit your teeth through pain, and it looks like Suter is one of those guys.

Let’s face it … the Wild need Suter, too, so one wonders if he feels like he has to play hurt (and possibly borderline injured).

Wild’s Suter reportedly questionable to play against Canucks

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It’s the Minnesota Wild against the Vancouver Canucks in a match-up prior to kickoff on Super Bowl Sunday, however the Wild could be without one of its top defensemen in Ryan Suter.

From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Ryan Suter, who got banged up Tuesday in Edmonton, missed his second practice this week Saturday and coach Mike Yeo indicated that he’s questionable to play against the Canucks. Suter, who has been visibly limping ever since the Oilers game and didn’t take part in the Wild’s off-ice workout at its hotel Friday, may not be the one to decide if he plays.

Yeo said if the Wild feels this is an injury that is going to nag him for three weeks, the team will be careful with him and hold him out against the Canucks. It would be a big loss as he’s been one of the team’s best defensemen the past three games.

If Suter doesn’t play (would be his first non-mumps related Wild absence), Christian Folin will draw back into the lineup and be paired with Jonas Brodin.

Suter played more than 29 minutes against the Oilers, and was in the lineup two nights later against the Calgary Flames. That evening, he played just under 24 minutes, which is well below his average per game on the season.

Meanwhile, the Canucks are coming off a 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres, now losers of 14 straight, on Friday. They finally snapped a scoring slump on home ice, having been shut out in their previous two games at Rogers Arena.

Starting Sunday, the Canucks and Wild will face each other three times in the next 16 days.