Thirty Years Ago Today

Calling all hockey fans. Thirty years to the day, Tony recounts a grad student's perspective on the Miracle on Ice.

Remembering the "Miracle" on Ice

Talk to my friends, no I mean the people who really know me, and they will tell you I am more than a driven weatherman. You see my passion for weather was fostered by my youthful enjoyment of ice skating and playing hockey. As a 12 year old growing up in Philly, I could not wait for the ponds to freeze over in winter. I was a rink rat thru and thru!

On Pennypack Creek I earned the nickname the "deking deggo" for my ability to handle a puck with deft skill. I will spare you the boring hockey autobiography and instead tell you a story of the greatest sports event to ever be played.

It's February 1980 and I am a grad student at Penn State. Final exams have come and almost gone. I have a Greyhound ticket in my pocket ready to go on Saturday afternoon. But first, there is the matter of a Cloud Physics exam in the morning.

That Friday is my last chance to prepare as I attempt to raise my grade from B to A. But there is one stumbling block to mastering the "coalescence and collision of molecules in a cloud" and the second order partial differential equation that describes both. You see there is an Olympic hockey game on TV that evening.

That game pits the greatest hockey machine ever assembled (the Red Army of Russia) against an upstart group of pimpled faced, cocky American college kids. The Winter Olympics are nearing their climax and remarkably the USA team has earned a chance to play the Russians with an Olympic medal in sight.

My game plan that Friday is simple. Wake up, study until 6, then hang it up and enjoy the hockey game on ABC. All day long I must stay away from the TV and radio since the game is being played in the late afternoon and will be shown on a tape delay basis on ABC at 7. NO WAY I AM GOING TO HEAR THE RESULT BEFORE THE GAME COMES ON.

At 6:30, I ordered a pizza and sat back to enjoy the game. But before the pizza delivery guy rang the bell, Peter Jennings came on with "This ABC News brief". Jennings would go on at 6:58 PM to tell how the brash American kids had pulled the upset of the century. I NEVER FORGAVE JENNINGS.

Still I watched the game in awe as we pulled the upset. That was 30 years ago today and to this day and no doubt until the day I die I am sure I will not get a bigger thrill in viewing a sporting event.

Watching the USA beat Canada last night in the Vancouver games was neat, but these are professionals, not the "youth of the world" the Olympics are supposed to be about. And this was a preliminary round game with no medal on the line.

In 1980 at Lake Placid, the youth did play and they beat a group of highly skilled, paid pros, the same team that had pasted them 11-3 just a week before the Olympics in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Instead on a magical Friday 30 years ago today, the hockey gods applauded the youthful exuberance of team USA and smiled upon the true meaning of the Olympics, that YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN compete under a universal banner with world peace and harmony in mind.

Oh how we have strayed from that mantra the past 30 years.

Truth be known, Al Michaels' call of the game was rather average, a sure sign Michaels was not a hockey devotee. But when the game was at it's end, his memorable "Do you believe in miracles" account made him a legendary broadcaster.

Trivia question:

The Russia game was not the game for the gold medal. That came two days later against Finland when the USA rallied for a 4-2 victory to win Olympic Gold. Michaels had, to me, an equally memorable call of the final seconds of the Finnish game. Do you know what that account was? I will scrounge up a door prize for the first person to tell me what Michaels said!

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