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'Miracle on Ice' camp

1980 Miracle on Ice players return for 5th fantasy camp

April 5, 2019
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Lunch was over, and the team draft for the 5th annual Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp was running one hour late at the Crowne Plaza Resort. It was 2:30, and teams were supposed to be on the ice by 3. That wasn't going to happen.

Emcee Stuart Hemsley extended his hand to help 61-year-old Mark Wells onto the stage for his pre-draft speech.

"Welcome!" said Wells, No. 15 on the 1980 U.S. hockey team that won the "Miracle on Ice" match against the Soviet Union and the gold-medal game against Finland during the Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid. "I won't make it long."

Article Photos

1980 U.S. hockey team gold medalist Mark Johnson, right, skates with the Blue team Tuesday, April 2 during the 5th annual Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp.
(News photo — Andy Flynn)

There was skepticism in the air. Wells likes to talk.

Four minutes later, Wells began listing the names of his 1980 teammates, such as Mark Johnson, currently the head coach of the University of Wisconsin-Madison women's ice hockey team.

"His girls team just won the national title," Wells said. "Mike Ramsey, a prolific NHL player for many years that I envied for his youth. In the Olympics, he was the youngest defenseman - 18 years old. He had a great career, and he's here also as a coach. He's got a lot of wisdom and a lot of experience, so hopefully you guys will win the medal this year. Johnson's hard to beat. Johnson, one of the finest coaches in college hockey ..."

"We've got practice at 3!" said 1980 captain Mike Eruzione, a coach for the fantasy camp's Blue team standing at stage right.

"Practice is at 3," Wells said. "Hey, enjoy the draft. Let these coaches take it from here."

Eruzione and Johnson took the stage.

"Mike, say a few words," someone from the audience said.

"Practice is at 3," Eruzione said at the podium. "Due to less numbers this year, when we were looking at the draft, we were looking for experience and speed, which we didn't see in the draft. But with the first pick, we've got a cagey veteran."

They chose third-year player Tamsin Wentzel, a 51-year-old South African woman who now calls Lake Placid home.

Eruzione, Johnson and fellow Blue team coach Neal Broten - who did not attend the draft - are perennial participants in the MOI Fantasy Camp, which began in 2015 shortly after the team's 35th anniversary reunion at Lake Placid's Olympic Center. In all, 45 "campers" attended the 5th annual Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp - down from 64 last year - from Sunday, March 31 to Wednesday, April 3. All games were played Tuesday and Wednesday at the 1980 Rink in the Herb Brooks Arena, named after the 1980 U.S. hockey coach who died in 2003.

Thirteen of the 19 surviving members of 1980 hockey team participated in the camp this year: Bill Baker, Neal Broten, Dave Christian, Mike Eruzione, John Harrington, Steve Janaszak, Mark Johnson, Rob McClanahan, Ken Morrow, Mike Ramsey, Buzz Schneider, Eric Strobel and Mark Wells.

Living teammates who did not attend were Steve Christoff, Jim Craig, Jack O'Callahan, Mark Pavelich, Dave Silk and Phil Verchota. Defenseman Bob Suter died of a heart attack in September 2014, and his jersey was retired to the Olympic Center rafters at the beginning of the 35th anniversary reunion in February 2015.

In addition, three other non-players from the 1980 team were in attendance during this year's camp: assistant coach Craig Patrick, team doctor Visvaldis George Nagobads and head athletic trainer Gary "Smitty" Smith.

The co-directors of the camp again were state Olympic Regional Development Authority Events Director Jeff Potter and for ORDA employee Katie Million traveled from Minnesota, where she is currently the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's vice president and Women's League commissioner. She was recently named director of women's national team programs for USA Hockey and begins that job May 1.


One season in three days

For the most part, the fantasy camp is treated like a real professional hockey season, only boiled down to three days of intensity.

Campers skated on the Olympic Center ice Monday morning so members of the 1980 U.S. hockey team could evaluate their skills. The Olympians then conducted a draft Monday afternoon, selecting players to fill four teams: Red, White, Blue and Gold. After the teams were filled, had their team meetings, and named their teams, the players participated in practice time on the ice.

Teams played three games each, Tuesday morning and afternoon and Wednesday morning, before moving on to either the Bronze Game or the Gold Game Wednesday afternoon. A medal ceremony was held afterward before the official fantasy camp photo was taken on the ice.

The new camper registration fee, as listed on the fantasy camp website, is $6,495.



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