Rozner: "Miracle on Ice" memories still fresh today
It's been 35 years and it often feels like so much less than that.
Sunday marks the anniversary of the greatest upset, greatest game and greatest sporting moment in American history, and the "Miracle on Ice" teammates will gather in Lake Placid to celebrate again.
This time they will have all the living members of the team in one building at one time, only the second time it's happened since Feb. 22, 1980.
"It would have happened in 2002 at the Salt Lake Olympics when we lit the torch as a team, but Mike Ramsey was coaching with Minnesota," Team USA's Jack O'Callahan said on the Score last week. "The Wild got him a private jet at the last minute, but he couldn't get there in time.
"The only time we've been together -- all 20 guys -- was at the funeral."
That was the funeral of legendary coach Herb Brooks, who led a group of college kids against perhaps the greatest team ever assembled, one that had played together for years. But Team USA took down the Soviets on a Friday night in upstate New York in a game that still moves fans to tears when they talk about it.
"We love talking about it," O'Callahan said. "People come up and tell personal stories about how it impacted their lives. They tell you about how it meant something to their dad, who was in World War II, or their grandfather, who had some emotional connection to it.
"Now, you have a whole new generation of young people embracing it. Since the movie ('Miracle') came out 10 years ago, it's sort of frozen in time."
Regardless of age, what hasn't changed is the passionate reaction of those who want to talk about what the game means to them.
"It's not really a surprise when someone wants to ask about it. It's great. It's all positive," O'Callahan said. "It's been fun. It's fun talking about it for us.
"The Russians, when they talk about it, they're miserable. They don't want to remember it. It's the total opposite for us."
In a current "30 for 30" running on ESPN, told from the Soviet point of view, the players are generally sick of speaking about a game that is memorable for Americans, and so forgettable for the losers of that historic match.
"It's like a redo of 'Grumpy Old Men' when you hear them talk about," O'Callahan said with a laugh. "They all seem pretty bitter about it."
The U.S. team is short one member after the death of Bob Suter, who had a heart attack in September. Suter's jersey will be raised to the rafters Sunday in Herb Brooks Arena, which was known as the Olympic Fieldhouse in 1980.
As part of "Hockey Day in America," which also features Caps-Flyers followed by Bruins-Blackhawks, NBC will look back at the game and the reunion at 11 a.m.
"It's like a bunch of old friends getting together. It's like we're still in the locker room," O'Callahan said. "But we're grown men now and we talk about different things, like who's on cholesterol medicine now.
"But it's always a great thing for us. Nothing but good memories. It's amazing the things people say to you. It's like they remember certain things in their lives, like where they were when the biggest historical events happened, and this is one of those things.
"To think we were a part of something so important to people, to have taken in the whole nation like that, it's very special."
And the Soviets believe it never would have occurred had they taken the U.S. seriously, which was difficult for them considering they had pounded the Americans two weeks before in an exhibition game at Madison Square Garden.
"I don't know about overconfidence, but maybe they were a little cocky," O'Callahan said. "They were such a great team, but they had been challenged in games in the previous round.
"Herbie kept saying they were beatable, so if they were overconfident they had no business being overconfident.
"For us, we were just thinking about keeping it close and having a shot late. They played pretty well, but we kept it close and we beat them. Looking back, we had some pretty good players on that team, so maybe they disrespected us.
"We had really good players. We deserved to win."
And they deserve every celebration they can get.
•Hear Barry Rozner on WSCR 670-AM and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.