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Steve Janaszak still No. 1 in hearts of teammates, fans

April 6, 2018
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor (aflynn@lakeplacidnews.com) , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Even though his jersey number was 1, Steve Janaszak knew going into the 1980 Winter Olympics that fellow goaltender Jim Craig would play all the games for the U.S., as long as he stayed healthy. Coach Brooks told him so.

But that doesn't mean "Janny" - as he is affectionately called - was a less-important part of the team, even though he was the only team member not to see ice time during the 1980 Olympics. As a goaltender for the University of Minnesota hockey team, he was the MVP for the national championship tournament when the Gophers won the NCAA title in 1979.

In the team's locker room during the Miracle on Ice 35th anniversary celebration in February 2015, 1980 Olympian Jack O'Callahan explained a comment he made earlier in the night: "We'll always be a team."

Article Photos

1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team goalie Steve Janaszak poses Tuesday, March 27 at the Lake Placid Olympic Center during the 4th annual Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp.
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

"They were talking about how Steve was the backup goalie," O'Callahan said. Steve Janaszak was not the backup goalie; he was one of our two goalies, and that's that. Some guys played more. Some guys played less. It didn't matter, man. Everybody had a hand on the rope. Everybody pulled. It was a pure team. And it had to be that way because we had a great challenge in front of us, and that's the only way you win is 20 guys pulling on the rope."

The Lake Placid News caught up with Janaszak, now 61 years old, on Tuesday, March 27 at the Olympic Center during the 4th annual Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp. He has been participating since the first camp in 2015. Below is a brief Q&A from that interview about Janaszak's Olympic and fantasy camp experiences.

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LPN: You were inside the bubble during the Olympics, from an athlete's perspective.

Janaszak: We were playing hockey games. I remember picking up a copy of the New York Times on Saturday morning and seeing we were a front-page story and thinking that was probably unique. I'm from White Bear Lake, Minnesota. I don't know the New York Times that well, so it was probably my first indication that it was registering somewhere outside the bubble.

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LPN: What was it like not playing in the Olympics?

Janaszak: It was the hardest thing I've ever done. When you're a player, you're wired to play. Herb was actually very clear that he was going to play Jimmy through the whole thing. He was up front with me about that, and I respect that. I just did what I could do to try and stay out of the way.

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LPN: Tell me about the fantasy camp experience.

Janaszak: This has really been a unique experience. ORDA has done an amazing job in putting together an experience with the campers that we just love to participate in. It's been a lot of fun.

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LPN: Am I correct that this camp inspired you to get back on the ice and play?

Janaszak: During the first camp, yeah. I'm watching the goaltenders, and they're all my age. Actually, Stanley (Rumbough) is a few years older. "I said, "I can do this. They're having way too much fun." So I bought a pair of pads and played for a couple of years and then last year I couldn't walk for two months after the camp was done. My knees are telling me, "No more."

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LPN: You said you played a little bit to get in shape. Where did you play?

Janaszak: We were living on Long Island at the time, and they have mid-day hockey at one of the rinks (The Rinx in Hauppauge), pick-up hockey. So I'd go down and play against some of the guys for an hour, hour and a half.

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LPN: What keeps you coming back to the fantasy camp?

Janaszak: These guys, right? I mean, you come here and laugh for four days straight. It's an incredible group of personalities, so much fun to be with. Watch Mark Pavelich on the ice. Ralphy Cox is here. Watch Ralphy or Mark Johnson. They're just fun to watch. It's a great experience.

What's better than this? You have a chance to spend a few days with your friends, tell old war stories, interact with the campers. I've had some great conversations with the campers, especially some of the guys in the Armed Services, sitting down and tell how they used our story to motivate their troops.

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LPN: Do you have any memories from Lake Placid in 1980 you'd like to share?

Janaszak: I met my wife (Jaclyn Minichello) here. She was a hostess in the Olympic Village, an interpreter. Jaclyn was working in the entertainment complex in the village, we met and we were married a year later. So I'm the luckiest guy on the team. I had the greatest moment in sports in the 20th century and I met my wife during the experience.

 
 

 

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