On Sunday afternoon, I found myself sitting quietly in an empty hockey rink. Terie and I were on a weeklong road trip to Montreal, Ottawa, and Stowe, Vt., before we decided to make a final stop in a small town of 2,244 people in the Adirondack Mountains.
Before me, the ice was bright white, smooth, and clean under the brilliant LED lights. A high school hockey game had ended about 30 minutes earlier.
Ice rinks are usually pretty staid and standard. But this one was different; it had a special aura. The rink was in Lake Placid, N.Y., where the 1980 U.S.A. men’s Olympic ice hockey team, made up of various unknown collegiate players, defeated the vaunted and mighty Soviet Union. The Soviets iced a squad of professionals that included many mercurial players of the utmost skill that were on a significantly higher level than any other country. They were beyond dominating.
As proof, two weeks earlier I was at Madison Square Garden, when I witnessed the Soviet Union destroy the Americans 10-3 in an exhibition game. It was a comical rout. But it was not a surprise, as no one with a sound mind could ever expect the young amateurs to beat them. They were overmatched in every aspect of the game.
Yet, Team U.S.A. won that semifinal game 4-3 on Feb. 22, 1980, against the supposedly unbeatable Russians. It was an incredible upset. ESPN still ranks it as the greatest upset in sports history.
It was a moment I will never forget. I was a senior in high school set to shuffle off to Buffalo for college a few months later. Few recall that Team U.S.A. then went on to defeat Finland for the gold medal in its next game two days later.
Sitting in that red plastic seat on Sunday, I tried to reimagine the pulse of that game against the Soviets. Looking around at the 8,000 empty seats, I still felt the history that was made in that arena, which was renamed Herb Brooks Arena. Brooks was the coach of Team U.S.A. who guided the squad of 20 collegiate players to the gold medal and into the history books.
As the television commentator Al Michaels screamed to his audience of millions in the final seconds of the game, “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”
I felt transported back in time.
Ironically, while rummaging through some of my old files in a briefcase a few weeks ago, I came across an autographed picture of Jim Craig. Craig was the goaltender for Team U.S.A. in that epic journey.
I don’t recall writing it, but I must have sent him a letter of congratulations after they won the gold medal. He quickly responded with his picture and autograph. It was wonderful to see it again. It will now be properly framed.
I also still have a hockey stick I received from Mike Ramsey when I worked for the Buffalo Sabres as an intern in college. Ramsey was a key defenseman for Team U.S.A. before playing in over 1,000 games in the National Hockey League, mainly with the Sabres.
On a side note, an autographed and framed Team U.S.A. jersey of Bill Baker, another defenseman on the 1980 gold medal squad, can be had at Collette’s Consignment Shop in Southampton. Baker’s jersey from the famed Miracle on Ice game is also on display at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., along with a stick autographed by all the members of the team.
After his time in hockey, Baker was an oral surgeon for many years in Minnesota, his home state. As I can personally attest, hockey players have a tendency to lose a few teeth over their playing career. Baker chose his profession wisely.
Before the water turns to ice here on the East End, the local fishing scene seems to have held up just fine. Bass, bluefish, tuna, sea bass, porgies, and blackfish are hungry and on the feed.
Three of my fishing friends from Sag Harbor — Chris Remkus, George Pharaoh, and Joel Fisher — each went out in his own boat in the past few days for blackfish and reported excellent action from Plum Island all the way to Fishers Island to the east.
“The best bite was around slack water,” Fisher said in a text. “We got our limits quickly. Also, we saw lots of false albacore on the north side of Fishers.” As the waters continue to cool, the fishing will only improve.
“Blackfish has started with a bang,” said Sebastian Gorgone at Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle in East Hampton. “Catches have been great with plenty of keepers.” He said that bass and blues can be had at Lazy Point, and that there are plenty of mullet residing in Three Mile Harbor. “Stripers love to feast on them.”
There’s also a tight leaderboard in the Montauk SurfMasters fall striped bass tournament. Gary Krist is currently on top with his 38-pound linesider, which he caught and released, while Rich Pietromonaco is close behind with his 37-pound fish. In third place is Bill Schulken with a 34-pound bass. In the Montauk Locals Surf Classic, Jim Stanis is in first with his 24-pound bass.
Love calamari? You’re in luck, as squid have shown up big time in Montauk waters. Both the Viking and Ebb Tide II reported excellent nighttime catches over the weekend. The party boats will continue to run occasional trips over the next few weeks, mainly on the weekends. Check their websites for more details.
Fishing tips, observations, and photographs can be sent to [email protected].