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MEMORIES BEFORE 'THE MIRACLE ON ICE'

Saturday, 02.20.2010 / 11:24 AM / Tell-Us-Strader: a Blog by Dave Strader
By Dave Strader
After a long day of travel from Phoenix, I’ve arrived back home in Queensbury, N.Y. where I will spend the next week or so getting recharged for the post-Olympic playoff run. For those who need a little geography lesson, Queensbury is next to my hometown of Glens Falls and lies about nine miles south of Lake George in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains. It’s also about 90 miles south of Lake Placid, the site of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.” As I've watched some of Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament from Vancouver, my mind has drifted back 30 years. You see, that was my first season in hockey. The 1979-80 campaign was the inaugural season of the Adirondack Red Wings of the American Hockey League. They played their home games in the newly constructed Glens Falls Civic Center. I was the team’s first radio voice.

There are so many memories from that year, but one of the most unique aspects of that season was the pre-1980 Olympic exhibition games. The Adirondack Red Wings played four exhibition games, sprinkled amongst their regular AHL schedule, in the weeks leading to the games in Lake Placid. The Wings hosted Sweden, Finland, West Germany and, of course, the U.S. squad. Ned Harkness, the director of the Glens Falls Civic Center at the time, used his many contacts in the hockey world to schedule these games.

The game against the U.S. team took place on Dec. 11, 1979. It was one of the most exciting games of that season. Mal Davis of the Red Wings scored in the final minute of the game for a thrilling 1-0 victory. The U.S. team used backup goaltender Steve Janaszak, if memory serves me correctly, for that entire contest. After the win over the U.S., Adirondack hosted the other three teams from Feb. 5-10, right before the Lake Placid games began. I was fortunate to call all of these games on WROW in Albany.

To further illustrate how different things were back then before NHL players became eligible to participate in the Olympics, that game against Adirondack was one of 61 pre-Olympic games played by the 1980 U.S. team. They started on Sept. 3, 1979 with an 8-1 win over Holland’s national team and finished right before the Olympics with that well-documented 10-3 loss to the Soviet Union at Madison Square Garden. Team USA played several teams from the AHL, IHL, European elite leagues as well as a few NHL teams. One of their more lopsided losses was 9-1 to the St. Louis Blues early in their schedule, but they did finish with an overall record of 42-16-3.

Enjoy the rest of the Olympic hockey and I will check back in later in the tournament!



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