<
>

Returning for a 'Miracle' moment

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Over the years, Ken Morrow has had literally thousands of people come up to him and tell him where they were, what they were doing and what it meant when the 1980 U.S. Olympic team won an improbable hockey game against the mighty Russians en route to an equally unlikely gold medal.

And that's part of the magic, no? That people aren't so much interested in having Morrow retell the story of that seminal hockey game -- people know it by heart -- as they are in sharing how the moment was made magical for them.

On Saturday night, Morrow and the surviving members of that Miracle on Ice team will reunite in the very building where history was made 35 years ago.

Jerseys with the players' names emblazoned on the back of the familiar red, white and blue are hung in the same dressing room in the arena that housed the players on the night they would defeat the Russians by a 4-3 count, prompting the hallmark question posed by broadcaster Al Michaels: "Do you believe in miracles?"

The answer, of course, is yes.

The chairs are aligned on the stage for the players below the speakers and giant screens that will carry everyone back in time.

Morrow is a four-time Stanley Cup winner with the New York Islanders and remains with the team as a director of pro scouting. He has been in this building, now named the Herb Brooks Arena after the team's iconic head coach, many times since that fabled tournament. In fact, the Islanders trained in Lake Placid for a number of years during training camp.

Still, there is no mistaking the charm that the small town in the Adirondacks continues to own, and the place that it holds in the hearts of those players who were part of that team.

"For me, this is what the Winter Olympics are and should be, a small town in the mountains," Morrow told ESPN.com Friday evening.

"To be back in the building where it happened," he added. "It played such a big part in my life and all the other guys' lives."

Saturday's event will rekindle memories that have inspired literally generations of hockey fans. But this year marks another kind of milestone, a more sobering reminder of the passage of time: the first passing of a member of a team many consider the most important team in the history of U.S. sport.

Bob Suter passed away in September, and his jersey will be hung from the rafters of Herb Brooks Arena as part of Saturday's ceremony.

"It was kind of the unspoken thing on the horizon," Morrow said of the notion that as time passed and the teammates grew older, there would at some point be such loss.

"I know it hit me hard. We were the same age."

While there were pilots and bankers and others on the team, there were also those who remained glued to the game like Suter, who ran hockey camps and owned a rink in Wisconsin.

"He touched the lives of so many kids," the Islander great added. "That's part of the whole thing about our whole team."

Backup netminder Steve Janaszak recalled sitting next to Suter at the press briefing shortly after the win over the Russians, and Suter elbowed him and asked him if he knew what they were.

"He said, 'We're the peas in the beef stew. We're just here to make it look good. The rest of them are the meat.'"

A longtime bond salesman and investment broker, Janaszak said Suter's passing will add to an already emotionally charged weekend.

"It definitely adds the element of mortality to the whole thing," the Long Island resident said.

Suter died of a heart attack in his arena.

"God bless Sutes, he went out on his old terms," Janaszak told ESPN.com.

The 35th anniversary celebration was the brainchild of longtime hockey executive Jeff Holbrook, who worked closely with Wayne Gretzky and is the managing partner of Potentia Athletic Partners.

Gretzky was asked some time ago to take part in a charity hockey game in Orlando and could not. Holbrook knew Mike Ramsey, a member of the 1980 team, from their shared days with the Buffalo Sabres and asked if Ramsey was interested in attending. Ramsey said he was but wondered if his pal and fellow Miracle teammate Dave Christian could come along. And so the idea of gathering the teammates for a special reunion grew, and it was decided the 35th anniversary would be a perfect touchstone.

After some debate about having the Blackhawks host the event in Chicago, it was decided that a return to Lake Placid would be fitting. The fact that the reunion takes place during Hockey Weekend Across America was an added bonus, given the impact the 1980 victory had on the growth of hockey in the United States.

Over time, it turned out that all of the surviving players wanted to be in attendance -- no small feat given the different occupations and geographic locations and personalities they represent.

"The magic isn't in anything but the players," Holbrook said. "The players are what make this thing go."

If there was any doubt about the resonance of this group's gathering, it was put to rest when Holbrook asked his 82-year-old mother if she remembered the Miracle on Ice game.

She shushed her son. Of course she did.

She was on a flight to Florida at the time and the pilot announced the score.

"And then they gave everyone free drinks," she told her son.

A moment in time indeed.