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Back on the team

Last man cut from 1980 U.S. hockey team returns for Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp

April 6, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer (gkelly@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Ralph Cox (14) didn't wear the hockey same gear as the rest of his team. Sure, he still wore the same USA jersey, but instead of sporting long pants, safety pads and over-sized shorts, he opted for a pair of sweatpants with medical taped wrapped around his knees and ankles to keep them tight. He also wore an old school helmet without a face mask or visor.

This was Cox's first year at the Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp in Lake Placid, playing on Team Gold, and he said it definitely won't be his last.

"It felt good," he said. "I haven't been on the ice in six years, but it's good to see my old teammates. Very seldom you can go to a place and meet 65 new friends over the course of a weekend, so it was a lot of fun."

Article Photos

Former professional hockey player Ralph Cox poses with his silver medal from the championship game Wednesday, March 28 at the 4th annual Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp in Lake Placid.
(News photo — Griffin Kelly)

Cox never went to Lake Placid in 1980. He was the last player head coach Herb Brooks cut from the U.S. hockey team before the Winter Olympics. Similarly, Brooks was the last person cut from the team before the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, California. Cox said the cut didn't affect his relationship with Brooks or his teammates.

"It was never an issue, even back 38 years ago," he said. "It was a great team, and we were very close. Herb Books was a phenomenal coach, and when he let me go, I had a broken ankle I was trying to recover from. He just said, 'I don't think you've recovered from your injury, and I'd love to have you on the team and you're a great player. You can come to Lake Placid. You're just not going to be able to play.' He was a complete gentleman about it."

A native of Braintree, Massachusetts, Cox was a forward with the University of New Hampshire Wildcats hockey team and was the ECAC Hockey Player of the Year in 1979.

He spent a good part of 1979 playing on the national hockey team before being cut by Brooks.

After that, Cox began his professional hockey career. During the 1980 Olympics, he was playing with the Tulsa Oilers (CHL), a minor league affiliate of the NHL's Winnipeg Jets. He also played for the Binghamton Dusters (AHL), Muskegon Mohawks (IHL) and New Haven Nighthawks (AHL) and went overseas to play hockey in Finland, Switzerland and Austria. He then worked as a scout for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the early 1990s and was with the team for the 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup wins.

Cox was inducted into the New Hampshire Athletics Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame in 2005.

Cox now works in real estate in Boston with projects up and down the East Coast.

"We have a great little niche, and I've been blessed with a phenomenal life," he said.

Cox seemed like the most popular person at this year's camp. After the gold-medal game, the guy couldn't move two feet before a camper would ask him for an autograph or a photo.

"It's a good feeling," he said. "I think once they made that movie 'Miracle' it sort of puts people in a different perspective, and that makes people want to meet those characters from the movie. It's always fun to be recognized, and you just got to keep it in perspective and not take it too seriously because these guys here are all such great guys and we're all humble."

Leading up to the Lake Placid Olympics, the members of the U.S. hockey team had been practicing together for almost a year - some players even more so because they attended the same college. With the fantasy camp, players have to come together as a team in a matter of a few days, which Cox said wasn't that difficult.

"It's pretty easy," he said. "It's here. It's special. Everybody's in a good mood. They start laughing and joking around and teasing each other a little bit. You feel like you've known each other for a long time. So I think it was pretty easy for all these guys to come together. Now, some have been here for four years, and they know each other like old buddies, but nobody's taking it too seriously. You can easily jump into practice and have some fun."

Cox's Team Gold won silver in the final game against Team Red.

The most recent Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, shared a lot in common with the 1980 games because instead of relying on NHL players, the U.S. hockey team used college students and amateur athletes. Cox said it was fun to see the amateur players representing the country, but he doesn't think it will last.

"I don't know if they can go back to having just pure amateurs players," he said. "The NHL players want to play. It's good marketing. It's great for hockey. You know, you have the NHL players from all the countries - Russia, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Finland. I do miss the purity of the amateur Olympics, but I think that's a novelty, and I don't think it will happen too much going forward, to be honest."

Cox said he thinks the Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp is a must for enthusiasts of the sport.

"Coming up here it's got a great mystique," he said. "I'd come back to the camp. This has been a lot of fun, and I think anybody who is involved in hockey and wants to have a couple of days of just laughs and play a little, they should think about coming up in the next couple of years."

(News Editor Andy Flynn contributed to this report.)

 
 

 

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