I played a lot of pond hockey as a kid growing-up in North Jersey. I used to go to Masar Park after school on winter days with my brothers and play in a daily pick-up game with neighborhood kids. I was a terrible skater, so I usually played goalie. (I later turned this love for net-minding into a high school career as a lacrosse goalie). After the U.S. Olympic Hockey team beat the Soviets and won the Gold Medal in 1980, I had dreams of becoming the next Jim Craig. I believed if I worked hard enough I would be ready for the 1984 games in Sarajevo.
In the months following the 1980 Lake Placid Winter Olympics I was obsessed with hockey.
It was also around this time that I thought I might want to be a sportswriter. All of my middle school essays had something to do with sports. In eighth-grade I even started a small sports magazine with the help an artistic friend who provided the cover designs. We called it Sports Journal. We put out two issues and sold about ten copies.
Recently, I found an essay I submitted on March 5, 1980. I wrote it for Mrs. Quiroz’s seventh-grade English class at Central Middle School (now Lazar Middle School) in Montville, New Jersey. I will never forget this assignment because Mrs. Quiroz read it to the class as a model of good writing. I will let our readers judge whether Mrs. Quiroz was correct in her assessment:
“Do you believe in miracles? Yes!!!” That was the voice of ABC television hockey broadcaster Al Michaels in the final seconds of the United States Olympic Hockey Team’s upset victory over Russia. Less than forty-eight hours later this also came out of Michael’s mouth as time ran out in the United States gold medal victory over Finland: “The impossible dream comes true!!!”
The United States victory was truly remarkable, but how many people really know how hockey is played? There are three main positions in hockey: the goalie, the defensemen, and the line (which includes two wings and a center). Out of these positions the toughest is goalie.
“Kick, save, and a beauty. Tremendous save!” These are also the words Al Michaels mentioned about United States goalie Jim Craig. The goaltender is definitely the most important man on the hockey team. Without him there would be no one to stop opposing team’s shots. Jim Craig’s spectacular performance actually won the game for the Americans since they were outshot by the Russians three to one.
“Long slapshot from the point, save, rebound, another save!” The goalie has to have tremendously fast reflexes because once he makes one save eighty percent of the time the puck will roll to an opposing player who will slap the puck right back at you. Since the puck is traveling at a speed of fifty to sixty miles per hour, you can see how fast reflexes pay off. Many people feel that the goalie has to be superhuman to survive such a beating every three or four days, but people don’t know that ninety percent of the time the goalie doesn’t feel a thing. He is heavily padded with thick leg pads, chest pads, and arm pads. He can also protect himself with a heavily padded glove and an eight-inch-wide goalie stick. The goaltender also has protection from his own players known as defensemen.
“Here comes the Russian, skating into open ice trying for the tying goal, but the play is broken-up by defenseman Ken Morrow.” That was again, Al Michaels on United States defenseman Kenny Morrow. Morrow, Bill Becker, Mike Ramsey, and Dave Christian definitely made Jim Craig’s job as goalie a lot easier. Their job was to break up any players breaking for a goal and not let them take a shot. In other words, get the puck away from your opponent. The defensemen experience the physical contact aspect of the game the most since they are the only ones who usually experience opposing players slamming them into the boards or checking them. The loud grunting and hard hits never get the best of these guys as they know their job: get the puck, wherever it is. They have to do whatever it takes to get it, even if that means they must suffer a hard hit or a vicious check.
“Mark Pavelich behind the goal, skates out in front, centers to Buzz Schneider, he scores!” This time Michaels is explaining the process in which the second U.S. line of Mark Pavelich, Buzz Schneider, and John Harrington scored a goal against Czechoslovakia. The line’s main job is to score goals. Most teams have three lines that switch off an on every five minutes. These men pass the puck around the goal and try to put it in the net. In Al Michaels’s quote above right wing Mark Pavelich skated behind the goal and centered, or passed the puck in front of the goal, to Buzz Schneider who put it in. A good line could be a goaltender’s nightmare if they can maneuver the puck close enough to the net for a shot. Lineman do a lot of checking…
Unfortunately, the last page is missing. I am so sorry that you are unable to read how this exciting tale comes to an end! 🙂
By the way, I am pretty sure these were exact quotes from Al Michaels since I taped every U.S. hockey game with my audio cassette tape recorder. I just set the recorder next to the television set and pressed the “play” button.
Enjoy the fortieth anniversary weekend of the Miracle on Ice!