It's been exactly 30 years since the United States defeated the Soviet Union in Olympic hockey in Lake Placid. It's been 30 years since that moved into one of my all-time favorite sporting events, and hasn't moved off the top spot since. I'm still jealous of friends and reporters Larry Felser, Helene Elliott and Dave Kerner, who were in the building that night.
There's been plenty of talk about that game in the past week. I've seen features on ESPN and NBC. It's amazing how new details keep coming out. For example, USA goalie Jim Craig was knocked cold for a moment because of a collision with a Soviet player.
One misconception about the game does get repeated, though. I've heard a few times that no one in America got to see the game live. Not true. People in Buffalo and Detroit (plus some other border cities) got to view the game as it happened ... thanks to Canadian television.
The game started around 4 p.m. or so, as I recall, and ABC begged the Olympic officials to move the Finland-Sweden game to 4 and the US-USSR game to 8 to accomodate live TV. No chance, said those forward-looking officials. (Think that would happen now?)
Luckily, the CBC was ready to show the game and black out the local news. So I got to watch the game in a reclining chair in my den. Once it was over, I didn't have to avoid the sports news for hours in order to see the ABC broadcast as if it were live. I brought a small TV into the dining room that night, and some friends and I watched the replay as we played poker. In other words, "Do you believe in miracles?" wasn't part of my vocabulary right away until the endless replays started. (By the way, Bob Costas is right -- the best sports call ever.)
Speaking of the Western New York broadcast, here's a story that didn't make the rounds. Thousands of Americans did try to watch the game as if it were live on ABC, since they couldn't leave early from work like I did. In the second intermission, Irv Weinstein of Channel 7 did a local news update. His tease was something like, "The American eagle slays the Russian bear. Details at 11."
And every single Western New Yorker who had the outcome spoiled probably yelled a very bad word at that moment.
I'm told by a friend in the WKBW newsroom that Irv wasn't apologetic when a co-worker pointed out how disappointed people were. "Oh, everybody knows how it came out by now," Weinstein said. Well, no.
Even some of Irv's famous "blaze-busters" couldn't put out that fire among the viewers for a while.