Where were you 36 years ago today when a team of amateur hockey players pulled off one of the greatest upsets in sports history? I had just turned 12 years old earlier in the month, and can vividly recall watching the tape-delayed(!) telecast of the “Miracle on Ice” on ABC from Lake Placid on Friday night, February 22, 1980. Truth be told, I had already heard the final score (USA 4, USSR 3) on the radio, but watched anyway, my heart palpitating with every shot on goal and save.
I was right back in front of my bedroom television again two days later as Team USA defeated Finland to clinch the gold medal.
In the coming months and years, no fewer than seven members of the U.S. squad would go on to become part of the New York Rangers organization.
Center Mark Pavelich played in 341 games for the Blueshirts between 1981-82 and 1985-86, scoring 133 goals and 318 points. 33 years ago tomorrow (Feb. 23, 1983), Pavelich tied Don Murdoch’s franchise record (which has not been matched since) by scoring five goals in one game against the Hartford Whalers at MSG. On hat giveaway night at The Garden, no less.
Defenseman Bill Baker, who scored the tying goal in the final minute of the opening game against Sweden in Lake Placid, played in 70 games for the Rangers during the 1982-83 campaign, finishing with 18 points (four goals, 14 assists). Prior to joining the Rangers, Baker (currently an oral surgeon in Minnesota) was traded by Colorado to St. Louis in exchange for his ex-college teammate and current Rangers TV analyst Joe Micheletti.
Left wing Rob McClanahan recorded 76 points (33 goals, 43 assists) in 141 games with the Rangers from 1981-82 through 1983-84. Both McClanahan and Pavelich were key members of “The Smurfs” line which helped lead the Rangers to an upset of the Philadelphia Flyers in the first round of the 1983 playoffs. After finishing 26 points behind the Flyers during the regular season, the Blueshirts swept the series 3-0.
Dave Silk, a Boston University teammate of fellow Miracle on Ice members Jim Craig, Mike Eruzione and Jack O’Callahan, appeared in 141 games for the Rangers (1979-80 to 1982-83), scoring 30-33-63.
Team USA assistant coach Craig Patrick, grandson of Rangers patriarch Lester Patrick, was hired as the team’s general manager in 1980 and would subsequently coach 95 games as well.
In June of 1981, Patrick hired his Miracle on Ice boss Herb Brooks as Blueshirts head coach. Brooks is currently the 8th winningest coach in Rangers franchise history, with 131 wins (surpassed by Alain Vigneault this past Sunday).
Although he never played in the NHL, Eruzione (the Team USA captain who scored the winning goal against the Soviet Union) worked as a part-time broadcaster with the Rangers and MSG Network in the 1980s.
From Lake Placid to Madison Square Garden…it’s hard to believe 36 years have passed.