The Miracle

This post is written by Mr. P.

“…11 seconds, you've got 10 seconds, the countdown going on right now! Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles?! YES!”

Perhaps the most famous TV sports words in history were screamed out by Al Michael’s, ABC TV’s ice hockey play-by-play man, during the closing seconds of the USA-USSR hockey game in the semi-final round of the 1980 winter Olympics at Lake Placid, NY. Remarkably, this was only his 2nd first being a game between the USSR and Czechoslovakia in the ’72 Winter games in Sapporo, Japan. He got the assignment because he was the only person on ABC’s staff that had ever called a game before! And after the USA-USSR game, he remained in the booth to call the Sweden-Finland semi-final game shortly thereafter just as my wife Shelly and I remained in the arena to watch that game. More on that in a bit…

It only seems fitting that on the eve of tomorrow’s (Saturday) ice hockey game between Russia and the USA that I share with you what it was like to be in Lake Placid for the Olympics that year, and especially the memories of that last weekend of ice hockey. We spent the final week of competition in Lake Placid and came back with memories forever imbedded in our hearts and souls. There were so many amazing performances that year and it wasn’t just from the ice hockey Gold medal.

Eric Heiden of the USA won an unprecedented 5 Golds in speed skating and despite his sudden thrust to fame, could not get a ticket for the USA-Russian game. He ended up in the arena standing behind the announcers on a small platform in the corner of the rink. Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark was the men’s alpine skiing icon with two golds and Hanni Wenzel took two golds and a silver in women’s alpine skiing for her country, Liechenstein. It seemed as if each day brought us a new record performance or brilliant comeback and the village had a certain buzz about it that is reserved only for events that are truly special.

The first thing we noticed upon our arrival to the little village was the colors! It was rainbow of red, blue, white, yellow, green, and black parkas, sweaters, and ski jackets as far as the eye could see. What was pretty cool was that in 1980, we did not have security threats like today and the athletes mingled with the fans as if one. Every place you went to eat or have a drink, you might end up sitting next to some Swedish hockey players or Norwegian skiers, both male and female. Many of the athletes stayed for the duration of the Olympics rather than to return home after their event and many of these same athletes partied hard taking the spirit of the Games to new levels! There was multi-language singing, dancing, and laughter into the late evening every night. Strangers walked arm–in-arm sharing world class camaraderie and the feeling of joy enveloped the town for two full weeks!

We had purchased our tickets 6 months in advance on the day they went on sale. I was familiar with the USA men’s ice hockey program and roster and felt that they had a chance to be in the Final 4, and that if they held up their end, they would meet the almighty USSR team in a semi-final game on Friday night. Our tickets arrived to us in the mail and we had seats for the Friday night, 830pm game, 10 rows up from the ice near center ice. Pretty close to perfect seating!

The Russians blew through their competition to easily reach the Final 4. When the USA team tied Sweden in the last minute of their first game, then beat the Czechs, things were looking very promising for the USA to hold up their end. In 1980, there were no Russian players in the NHL. Their top 20 players played for their national team and their Stanley Cup was the World Championships held every spring. Every fourth year, they got to flex their muscle in the Olympics as well. With a roster stacked with future Hockey Hall of Famers including the best goalie in the world, Vladislav Tretiak, the Russians appeared unbeatable.

                                                                       Vladislav Tretiak

                                                                       Vladislav Tretiak

In fact, the week before the Games, they played Team USA in NYC and hammered them 10-3. Nobody gave us a chance including probably our own players, as our team was comprised mostly of recent college grads or college kids with no pro experience and an average age of 21. When we finally beat West Germany 4-2 in the last preliminary round game, we clinched a spot in the Final 4 vs. USSR. Game on!

Shelly and I were thrilled to be holding a pair of center ice tickets for this game. People were getting up to $1000 a seat on the street for a ticket. But then we were thrown for a loop…it turns out the 8:30pm game was going to be the Sweden-Finland semi instead of USA-USSR. American politicians pleaded with the Russians to swap times with Sweden-Finland so it could be broadcasted in “prime time” here in the US, but the Russians were not our best friends back then and refused. It was to be played at 5:30pm…arrrggghhh….fortunately, I had a cousin who worked for ABC up there and he was able to get us into the arena for the game and we got to view it from the control room where the director was watching 20- something monitors from cameras inside the building right next to the ice. So we did get to watch the game live in the building.

As the game went on and we tied it at 3-3 in the 3rd period, the noise built to a deafening roar. When Mike Eruzione scored with 10 minutes to go, the anticipation and noise level was off the charts! For the game, the Russians outshot the USA 39 to 16 and it seemed as if most of those shots came in the last few minutes. Our goalie, Jim Craig, made one acrobatic save after another while our players sacrificed their bodies to block as many shots as they could get in front of.

Then finally, the “countdown” from Al Michaels and then it was over! Total bedlam throughout…hugging, kissing, jumping up and down at once, 8500 people, less the Russians in attendance, went berserk! Everyone spilled into the streets of the village and the chant “USA, USA” echoed through the cold, dark evening air for hours and hours. It seemed to electrify an already electric scene and the clubs and restaurants quickly filled with ecstatic revelers. Shelly and I remained behind to watch Sweden tie Finland in a dull 3-3 game, at least dull compared to the game we had just witnessed. We did join the celebration after our game was over .

On Sunday morning, with Shelly and I sitting along the ice behind the goal, we watched Team USA come from behind to defeat Finland for the Gold medal 4-2. It was a dream tourney if there ever was one!

Ticket Stubs
Ticket Stubs

Here’s a few interesting tidbits about that USA-Russian game:

  • Perhaps the biggest coaching mistake in hockey history was when the Russian coach yanked Tretiak with 1 second to go in the first period and replaced him with his backup, Vladimir Myshkin, after Tretiak gave up a soft goal. The USA kids were intimidated by Tretiak and this gave our kids the boost needed to help them get over the top. Tretiak did not return to the game after he was pulled.
  • The game was broadcasted on tape delay to the USA at 8pm. Most people thought they were seeing it live and had no idea it had already been played.
  • Most people underestimated our team, but virtually all of them played in the NHL after the Games. A few were all stars with long careers, so this was not just a bunch of kids thrown together for two weeks of hockey.
  • The Russian team was the equivalent of an NHL all star squad that averaged in their late 20s, the primes of their careers.
  • The USA team did not play a North American style of play, but instead, adapted the wide open Euro style with some body checking tossed in. Coach Herb Brooks trained our kids to be able to outskate any team in the third period and it was that strategy that won it for us.
  • Ken Morrow, one of our defensemen , went from Team USA after the Olympics to the NY Islanders of the NHL, where he won the Stanley Cup 3 months later. What a year for that kid!
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Dana Podgurski

Hi everyone! I'm Dana Podgurski! 

I'm a foot in the mouth, tongue in cheek, head in the clouds, and heart on the sleeve kind of gal. I live for new experiences, but am a total sucker for nostalgia at the same time. I'm tough as nails, but am a complete softie for all things kids and animal related. I fly by the seat of my pants, and live for adventure. But I firmly believe that adventure is a mindset that one's self determines.

For work, I am a marketer through and through. Bringing brands to life, and content marketing are passions of mine. Many would consider what I do as nerdy, but I seriously dig it. I have been doing marketing contract work for years, and appreciate the variety it brings, and the relationships I've developed with my clients. To check out my work portfolio, or if you're interested in a partnership, click here.

For fun I love to create - writing/blogging, photography, and painting are my main three mediums of doing so. Feeling good and healthy is also high on my list, as it really lends itself to making everything more enjoyable. So I maintain a very active lifestyle, eat pretty healthy, and am outdoors as much as I can be. And if my blog didn't make it abundantly clear, I absolutely LOVE to travel. I spend any extra money I have on plane tickets, and feel so fortunate to have been to several amazing destinations both domestically and internationally. There's nothing more fulfilling than coming home from a trip and adding a been-there-pin to my map.

You And What Army?

This post is written by Floyd Bayne, former beer league teammate of Mr. P's.

A few years ago I had the distinct privilege of playing o the same ice hockey team as one Chuck Podgurski. Now Chuck, being a Yankee of New York origins, and myself, being a good ol’ Southern boy, you might not think we would share a love of the game of ice hockey, but we did and we were teammates.

Chuck was the classic stay-at-home defenseman and I played both goalie and skated as a right-wing. I learned a lot about the game from Chuck and enjoyed his tales of hockey games past. Chuck was not what one would call a “tough guy” or a fighter, although he could more than handle his own when it came to the rough stuff. He just preferred to play a solid defensive game. I, on the other hand, was not the most skilled forward on the team, but I could put the puck in the net and when someone tried giving my teammates a hard time, well, I didn’t mind dropping the gloves in their defense.

Sums it up!
Sums it up!

On the occasion I am writing about our team, B5, yes, that was the name we went by, as we were listed as team number 5 in the B division, was playing our first playoff game of the season. We were playing a team that we had dealt with quite handily throughout the regular season, but, hockey being the kind of game it is, if you don’t play your best any team can beat you. On this night the opponent was taking it to us. There were a couple of guys in particular who were really getting under our skin. They were playing a rougher than usual, hard fore-checking game and they were making especially difficult for Chuck to move the puck out of our end of the ice. This was a strong part of Chuck’s game and he was getting obviously frustrated by the constant bumping, stick-checking, and annoying play and chatter.

At some point in the third period, as we were trying our best to mount a comeback, Chuck had reached his limit with one player in particular. I did not see what precipitated the incident, but Chuck was squared off with the guy and they were both yapping at each other pretty good. You know, “Why I oughta!” “Oh yeah, you and what army?” Back and forth they went as Chuck kept skating at the guy and pushing him toward his own bench. As the opposing player neared his bench he stopped short and squared off with Chuck. We all anticipated that gloves were going to drop soon. Apparently the opposing team thought so as well, because about 4-5 of them started coming over the bench onto the ice to “back up” their player. It now looked like Chuck vs. about 6 other guys.

Chuck puffed himself up as big as he could and challenged them to put up or shut up. As Chuck edged forward, toward the opposing players, they all stopped abruptly, looked at each other, in that quizzical fashion that some people do, when they are unsure of something, and turned around and went back to their bench. Chuck stood there for a moment, staring at them and issuing another challenge. When it was obvious that they were not going to take him up on his challenge Chuck turned around and skated back to our bench with what can only be described as a s*** -eating grin on his face. “You guys see how they backed down? They knew I was going to kick someone’s a**!

We all nodded in agreement and gave Chuck a congratulatory pat on the back, while trying to hide our laughter. What Chuck didn’t know at the time, since he had his back to our bench, was that me, Mike Mellinger, Pat deFur, and about 5 other teammates were coming over our bench to come to Chuck’s aid. When the opposing team looked up and saw us coming they backed away. When we saw that they were going back to their bench we returned to ours, without Chuck even noticing that we had been there. We lost the game, much to our chagrin, but as with all beer league hockey we got over it pretty quickly. In the locker room Chuck was regaling us with the story of how the eyes of the other team got really big when he stepped up to challenge them. It was then that we took the wind out of Chuck’s sails and let him know that what he thought was his imposing figure was actually half of his team skating up behind him. I think he still prefers to believe that they were scared of him alone. ;)

Those were wonderful days of the not too distant past. Playing hockey with a great bunch of guys and making lifelong friends. I count myself fortunate to have made such friends as Chuck Podgurski.

1 Comment

Dana Podgurski

Hi everyone! I'm Dana Podgurski! 

I'm a foot in the mouth, tongue in cheek, head in the clouds, and heart on the sleeve kind of gal. I live for new experiences, but am a total sucker for nostalgia at the same time. I'm tough as nails, but am a complete softie for all things kids and animal related. I fly by the seat of my pants, and live for adventure. But I firmly believe that adventure is a mindset that one's self determines.

For work, I am a marketer through and through. Bringing brands to life, and content marketing are passions of mine. Many would consider what I do as nerdy, but I seriously dig it. I have been doing marketing contract work for years, and appreciate the variety it brings, and the relationships I've developed with my clients. To check out my work portfolio, or if you're interested in a partnership, click here.

For fun I love to create - writing/blogging, photography, and painting are my main three mediums of doing so. Feeling good and healthy is also high on my list, as it really lends itself to making everything more enjoyable. So I maintain a very active lifestyle, eat pretty healthy, and am outdoors as much as I can be. And if my blog didn't make it abundantly clear, I absolutely LOVE to travel. I spend any extra money I have on plane tickets, and feel so fortunate to have been to several amazing destinations both domestically and internationally. There's nothing more fulfilling than coming home from a trip and adding a been-there-pin to my map.

Why Junior Hockey Players Don't Make It To The Next Level

This post is written by the infamous Mr. P.

100 or more young men from ages 15 to 20 show up for showcase tournaments heavily scouted by the many Junior coaches across North America almost every weekend in the off season. The kids are playing to impress with the goal of landing positions at the Junior level (under-20) and the competition is fierce. Frankly, each kid always looks amazing at these tournaments, and coaches spend countless hours recruiting them based on their performances. Finally, teams are selected and the preseason practices begin. They are always filled with hope and promise and for the kids - it's an opportunity to springboard to potential pro, college, or advancement into higher tier Junior hockey.

Junior Hockey Hierarchy
Junior Hockey Hierarchy

But the reality is that most of the kids do not reach their goals and achieve that certain “stardom” forecasted for them in their younger years. The reasons are many and I’ll share some of them with you.

The highest levels of this sport require extraordinary speed, skilled hands, “fast feet”, a high degree of toughness, top notch conditioning, quick decision making, and a level of commitment only seen by elite athletes. Plus, there is the “chemistry” that one brings to the locker room that plays another big role in determining success or failure.

All of the kids at this level are fast, have “good hands”, and a decent shot. But only a few have the type of speed that separates them from the pack. This is the breakaway elite speed that maybe one (or two if you’re lucky) possess on any given team. This is a must for playing at the next level. But even with that type of speed, you must also have the type of footwork required to let you shift from one direction laterally to another or transition from forward to backward skating and vice versa at the drop of a dime. I played with a guy who had NHL speed, size, and shot right out of college but had limited lateral cutting ability and was basically just a “vertical” player, one who went straight “up and down” the ice. He never left the lowest rungs of minor league hockey as a result. We all thought he was the next Alex Ovechkin!

Toughness is not measured by how good a fighter you are but instead by how willing you are to take a hit to make a play or continue to battle for pucks when you’re exhausted, losing in a game, etc. These are guys that coaches dream about…today, they are the Ryan Callahans and Patrice Bergerons of the NHL. The motors on these types of players never quit, they refuse to lose on each and every shift, and somehow, they find the inner toughness to notch it up a step when most needed. They are a royal pain in the butt to play against, but you’d love to have them on your team!! It is a MUST to have in order to succeed at elite hockey levels.

The ability to see a play before it actually happens is what separates the good from the great. Think of Wayne Gretzky or Sidney Crosby when describing this attribute. Gretzky used to claim he looked 2 seconds into the future when on the ice and he always managed to create scoring plays when others were just skating around. Both Gretzky and Crosby manage to place a puck into spaces that haven’t even opened and then somehow their teammates have it on their blade with a chance to score. At the Junior level, most guys just play in the moment, reacting to what is happening to them at that time. The best ones that move up have that innate sense of determining what WILL happen if they just did “X”. They are special and easy to pick out for a sophisticated follower.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle to most in reaching up to the next level is the dedication, commitment, and sacrifices needed to get there and remain there. For some, the game comes easily and they rely on their natural talents to get noticed. But the reality is that everyone is talented in Juniors and above. So the commitment needed to reach the top in terms of year round conditioning, diet, playing with pain, and just saying “no” to the many temptations offered a teenage hockey star truly skims the less committed. It is very difficult to maintain the discipline required to push yourself to heights beyond your current status and reach your dreams. And even then, there is no guarantee you’ll make it. The landscape is filled with many beer league young adults who did have the ability and talents to reach the pros or top colleges but failed to push themselves enough to achieve that lofty status.

And lastly, while you might be the world’s greatest player, you might also be the world’s greatest jerk! You know the type…he walks on water, is a selfish teammate, won’t cover his teammate’s backs when in trouble, does not try to fit in with the bonding and chemistry most successful teams have in the their locker rooms. These are the guys, if skilled enough, prove intoxicating to GMs and coaches. They feel THEY are the ones who can turn this kid around, but that rarely, if ever, happens. These kids bounce from team to team and ultimately never fulfill their vast amount of promise and hype. There are far more of this type of player than you are aware of. Luckily, ice hockey does have a way of reeling in these guys from within. Egos are not tolerated if the leadership is strong on and off the ice. And maybe this is why the sport is so special...

Comment

Dana Podgurski

Hi everyone! I'm Dana Podgurski! 

I'm a foot in the mouth, tongue in cheek, head in the clouds, and heart on the sleeve kind of gal. I live for new experiences, but am a total sucker for nostalgia at the same time. I'm tough as nails, but am a complete softie for all things kids and animal related. I fly by the seat of my pants, and live for adventure. But I firmly believe that adventure is a mindset that one's self determines.

For work, I am a marketer through and through. Bringing brands to life, and content marketing are passions of mine. Many would consider what I do as nerdy, but I seriously dig it. I have been doing marketing contract work for years, and appreciate the variety it brings, and the relationships I've developed with my clients. To check out my work portfolio, or if you're interested in a partnership, click here.

For fun I love to create - writing/blogging, photography, and painting are my main three mediums of doing so. Feeling good and healthy is also high on my list, as it really lends itself to making everything more enjoyable. So I maintain a very active lifestyle, eat pretty healthy, and am outdoors as much as I can be. And if my blog didn't make it abundantly clear, I absolutely LOVE to travel. I spend any extra money I have on plane tickets, and feel so fortunate to have been to several amazing destinations both domestically and internationally. There's nothing more fulfilling than coming home from a trip and adding a been-there-pin to my map.

NHL Fines and Podgurski Fines

In order to keep players in line, and to prevent complete chaos on the ice, the NHL has rules and regulations. All professional sports do. The NHL fines players and coaches if they do something particularly bad. Back in October, the head coach of the Colorado Avalanche was fined $10,000 for this. Shawn Thorton of the Boston Bruins just returned yesterday from his 15 game suspension, which yielded a $84,615.45 forfeit in his salary. Here's the full list of suspensions/fines so far this season. My parents run a similar system in their household. Before you think my parents are psycho militant enforcers, remember that they are billeting three boys between the ages of 18-20, and also have my brother, Moose (age 23) living with them until he finds a job. Essentially, they are just trying to prevent their home from becoming a frat house. Here's a list of "The Mean P's Terrible, Cruel, Fine System."

The billets, my parents, and my brother, all sat down together and wrote the “laws,” and set the “fines.” If a law is broken, they are fined and place money in a mason jar that is displayed unceremoniously on the kitchen counter. The “offender” has the right to “appeal,” and see the “Judge” (aka The Queen, aka Mom) in what we call Kangaroo Court. Kangaroo Court takes places at the dinner table, and where Mother Dearest will hear your defense, and then proceed to tell you your fate. At that point you pray that you are not beheaded.

Those who know me, know that I swear all the damn time on occasion. But I do my absolute best to not do so in front of my parents (because my mom haaaates swearing, and just out of respect of being in the parental's home). So when I was home in Virginia for Christmas, I knew I’d need to watch that pretty lil’ mouth of mine. At first, I thought of just sticking a $20 in the fine jar, paying for my foul-mouthed offenses in advance. But I gave it some more thought, and felt like that was sort of a lame way to handle it, as my parents (my mom in this case) really don’t ask for that much. So I opted to see it as a challenge.

I had been home for just over a week. The night before I was flying back to Fort Lauderdale, I was feeling like a champ, having not sworn once in my parents home. But then it happened....

I tripped on one of Blue’s (the dog, not the billet) toys. As my perfectly painted toe bent and cracked in the most awkwardly painful way imaginable, I sang out the F-word. Naturally, my mom has impeccable timing, as she was a mere 5 feet away. I believe her exact words were “Dane, that was a bad one.” I knew my hope for appeal in Kangaroo Court was nonexistent. I went to the banker (my dad), and exchanged a $5 dollar bill for 5 singles, and into the jar a single went.

                                        The Fine Jar.

                                        The Fine Jar.

An offense. A fine. Penance. All in under 5 minutes. If only this country's judiciary system was this efficient.

2 Comments

Dana Podgurski

Hi everyone! I'm Dana Podgurski! 

I'm a foot in the mouth, tongue in cheek, head in the clouds, and heart on the sleeve kind of gal. I live for new experiences, but am a total sucker for nostalgia at the same time. I'm tough as nails, but am a complete softie for all things kids and animal related. I fly by the seat of my pants, and live for adventure. But I firmly believe that adventure is a mindset that one's self determines.

For work, I am a marketer through and through. Bringing brands to life, and content marketing are passions of mine. Many would consider what I do as nerdy, but I seriously dig it. I have been doing marketing contract work for years, and appreciate the variety it brings, and the relationships I've developed with my clients. To check out my work portfolio, or if you're interested in a partnership, click here.

For fun I love to create - writing/blogging, photography, and painting are my main three mediums of doing so. Feeling good and healthy is also high on my list, as it really lends itself to making everything more enjoyable. So I maintain a very active lifestyle, eat pretty healthy, and am outdoors as much as I can be. And if my blog didn't make it abundantly clear, I absolutely LOVE to travel. I spend any extra money I have on plane tickets, and feel so fortunate to have been to several amazing destinations both domestically and internationally. There's nothing more fulfilling than coming home from a trip and adding a been-there-pin to my map.

A Hockey Christmas

I had noticed that the family’s NHL fan-apparel was due for replacing. So this year for Christmas, I did NHL themed gifts for my family. I sneakily did some some detective work (ok, so I straight up asked everyone) to see what everybody wanted. Being a Bruin’s fan, it is was difficult purchasing Caps and Rangers apparel... but I also took a moment to be thankful that I do not have any Flyers’ fans in the family... that would be awwwwwwkward. Here's what I found on Fanatics:

                                     Bought these for the fam for Xmas!

                                     Bought these for the fam for Xmas!

I think they liked them. :)

                               Pods sporting their new fan gear.

                               Pods sporting their new fan gear.

Dad also requested a new Sher-Wood (hockey stick). It was fun seeing him light up like a kid, “Look at all this fresh ink! Perfect for tattooing.” When my father says “tattooing” or “Give him a Sher-Wood tattoo!”  he means slamming his stick (where it says “Sher-Wood) across another dudes chest hard enough leave a “Sher-Wood” mark/tattoo on it.

The last I heard, Dad was pretty stoked to get on the ice and rip some slapshots with his new stick. Let's just hope he doesn't poke somebody's eye out. (Yes, that was an intentional Christmas Story reference).

2 Comments

Dana Podgurski

Hi everyone! I'm Dana Podgurski! 

I'm a foot in the mouth, tongue in cheek, head in the clouds, and heart on the sleeve kind of gal. I live for new experiences, but am a total sucker for nostalgia at the same time. I'm tough as nails, but am a complete softie for all things kids and animal related. I fly by the seat of my pants, and live for adventure. But I firmly believe that adventure is a mindset that one's self determines.

For work, I am a marketer through and through. Bringing brands to life, and content marketing are passions of mine. Many would consider what I do as nerdy, but I seriously dig it. I have been doing marketing contract work for years, and appreciate the variety it brings, and the relationships I've developed with my clients. To check out my work portfolio, or if you're interested in a partnership, click here.

For fun I love to create - writing/blogging, photography, and painting are my main three mediums of doing so. Feeling good and healthy is also high on my list, as it really lends itself to making everything more enjoyable. So I maintain a very active lifestyle, eat pretty healthy, and am outdoors as much as I can be. And if my blog didn't make it abundantly clear, I absolutely LOVE to travel. I spend any extra money I have on plane tickets, and feel so fortunate to have been to several amazing destinations both domestically and internationally. There's nothing more fulfilling than coming home from a trip and adding a been-there-pin to my map.