LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — People can remember where they were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated or when Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon.
But what about the night of Feb. 22, 1980?
For 19 hockey players and countless Americans glued to their television sets or lucky enough to be sitting in the stands, it was a moment they would never forget.
It was the Miracle on Ice.
“It’s a sporting event that touched the lives of a nation,” said Mike Eruzione. “When it’s the Olympic games, the nation feels a part of you and I think that’s what makes the Olympics so special. Everybody is on board.”
Now 35 years later, all the surviving members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team gathered in Lake Placid for the first time since the historic game against the Soviets and winning the goal medal two days later.
Everyone has been back at one time or another — ask the bartenders, Eruzione added — but never the entire team at one time.
“Each guy contacted each other,” Eruzione said. “It’s amazing all 19 of us are able to get here. In 35 years, we’ve never really done anything. When this opportunity came about, the guys were all excited about it.”
The rink itself may hold the memories of the game itself, but for some of the players, the locker room was the moment when it all hit them.
“The locker room was the first place I went in,” said Mike Ramsey. “Our jerseys were hanging up by number, so we started moving them around to where our stalls were and that’s when I got emotional.
“I still see highlights and have a hard time believing I was part of it. Just to be apart of it was a blessing.”
No one could have believed that 35 years later, people still know who they are and what they did, including ones who weren’t even born in 1980.
“What’s fun for us is that it still resonates across the country for people our age and older to kids who are 10 and 12 years old,” said Rob McClanahan. “There’s no question the movie Disney produced has been able to carry the story to this day. It’s a feel-good story.”
Even Phil Verchota is amazed at the reception they still receive wherever they go.
“As a kid growing up in Duluth, Minnestoa, you just want to do well in the things you do and play a little hockey,” he said. “Whatever come, comes. I never would have ever dreamed this.”
Though a lot of time has passed, one thing has stayed the same: The entire team still acts like a bunch of 20-something college kids when they do get together.
“We are the most immature people,” Eruzione said with a laugh. “You’d think we were grown men — not happening. Could you imagine the atmosphere in the locker room? We weren’t that serious.”
McClanahan echoed his former captain’s sentiments.
“We don’t get together a lot,” he said. “It’s great to get together with these guys. It’s as if we haven’t missed a beat. There’s no mercy on anybody.”
Though the evening will be a celebration of the game, it will also be one for teammate Bob Suter, who passed away in September and became the first member of the team lost to the ages.
His jersey will be raised to the rafters in commemoration of his life and his contributions to the team.
“It will be bittersweet,” Eruzione said. “Bobby was not only a great player, but a great person. He did a lot for hockey, not only in Madison, but the state of Wisconsin. We all realize at some point that we’ll move on, but nobody thought Bobby at 57 would not be with us.
“He was a special teammate and a special person and clearly will be missed. It will be sad to see his jersey up there.”