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ORDA makes ‘Miracle’ memories at third annual fantasy camp
April 6, 2017

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LAKE PLACID - Asked if he had any predictions going into the gold-medal game at the third annual Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp Wednesday, March 29 at the Olympic Center, 1980 U.S. hockey team goalie Jim Craig was confident.

"Yeah," he said at the Gold Rush team bench where he assisted head coach Ken Morrow. "We're going to win."

It didn't work out that way. Mike Ramsey's Red Light District remained undefeated and pulled off a 6-1 win to earn a gold medal. Gold Rush got the silver, and Neal "Broten's Bastards" took home the bronze with a 3-2 win over John Harrington's Coneheads.

Asked what words of wisdom he passed on to his players before the game, Ramsey said, "I just told them to have fun and feel good about themselves after the game."

Morrow also gave his team a pep talk before the game.

"There was no Herb Brooks speech today. They got it the other day," Morrow said as the team rested between the second and third periods. "You made the big game here, the gold-medal game, so just let it out and rely on your instincts and have some fun out there."

Fifty-five hockey players from around the world made a pilgrimage to Lake Placid for the third annual Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp, which was held between Sunday, March 26 and Thursday, March 30. They were coached by members of the 1980 U.S. hockey team who beat the Soviet Union in the "Miracle on Ice" game on their way to a gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games. Campers played in the same rink the Olympians earned their fame and in the same arena now named for 1980 Coach Herb Brooks, who died in 2003.

The state Olympic Regional Development Authority held its first Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp in 2015, a couple months after the 1980 players attended their 35th anniversary reunion.

The 14 Olympians from the 19-member U.S. team who participated in the fantasy camp this year were: Neal Broten, Blue team coach; Dave Christian, Red team player; Jim Craig, Gold team assistant coach; John Harrington, White team coach; Steve Janaszak, Blue team player; Mark Johnson, Red team player; Ken Morrow, Gold team coach; Rob McClanahan, Gold team player; Mike Eruzione, Blue team assistant coach; Mark Pavelich, White team player; Mike Ramsey, Red team coach; Buzz Schneider, White team player; Eric Strobel, assistant commissioner; and Mark Wells, commissioner. In addition, the 1980 team's assistant coach Craig Patrick was participating as the general manager, and the team's athletic trainer Gary Smith helped for his first year.

The other five surviving 1980 players not present were Bill Baker, Steve Christoff, Jack O'Callahan, Dave Silk and Phil Verchota. The 20th member of the team - Bob Suter - died of a heart attack in September 2014. His jersey was retired to the rafters over the 1980 Rink during the 35th anniversary celebration on Feb. 21, 2015.

With '80s rock music filling the Olympic Center during every break in action, the fantasy camp is treated like a real professional hockey season, only boiled down to three days of intensity.

First, there's a draft. In the first round, the 55 campers were selected to one of four teams: Red, White, Blue and Gold. In the second round, some of the 1980 players were named to teams. After being drafted, campers signed contracts, which were signed by Wells, Strobel and Patrick.

"This is real," Wells said after the draft. "This is how the professionals handle it, and somebody who really knows a lot about it is general manager Craig Patrick. As you know, he was a coach and general manager in the National Hockey League with Pittsburgh and the New York Rangers."

This was Patrick's second year at the fantasy camp.

"It's a lot of fun," Patrick said. "The campers have a great time, and we have a great time with them, and we have a great time together."

The teams were then renamed to the Red Light District, Coneheads, Broten's Bastards and Gold Rush.

"It was a quick evaluation this morning, but we try and even it out so that the teams are equal, and that makes for a good tournament," Morrow said after the draft.

This was Morrow's third year as a fantasy camp coach. He was a defenseman during the 1980 Olympics. Later he was signed by the New York Islanders and helped them win four Stanley Cup titles. Now he heads their scouting department.

"As coaches, we kind of get a taste of everything," Morrow said. "We get to evaluate the players. We get to hold a draft here. We get to go on the ice and run some drills with them and stand behind the bench and coach them. And then we get to laugh and tell stories afterward. So it's all good."

Campers played three games each for the regular season on Tuesday and Wednesday morning. After the bronze-medal game Wednesday afternoon, it was time for the gold-medal game, the medal ceremony and the official fantasy camp photo on the ice, with everyone raising an index finger as if to say, "We're number one."

Of the 55 campers, 31 were returning players - 19 third year and 12 second year - 24 attended for the first time. They wanted to re-live the U.S. hockey team's 4-3 "Miracle on Ice" win over the Soviet Union on Feb. 22, 1980, which Sports Illustrated has called the Top Sports Moment of the 20th Century.

This was the third fantasy camp for 50-year-old Mark Schultz of Marcy, New York. He first heard about the camp from Mike Eruzione in a chance meeting at a downtown Lake Placid store the afternoon of the 35th anniversary reunion.

"The first year is indescribable because you're like a deer in the headlights," Schultz said. "We wanted to be Olympians when we were kids. That's all we wanted to be. So when we walked out on that ice for the first time and saw that jersey drop, you can't describe it. Then you get to know them on a personable basis, and I've developed friendships."

This was 1980 goalie Jim Craig's first time reuniting with his Olympic teammates at the Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp, and he hopes to come back next year. Personally, he sees these events as a way to reconnect with "the guys." It's also a way to help make memories for fantasy campers.

"What Lake Placid does in a lot of different areas, whether you're a triathlete or trying to become an Olympian, it just gives people a chance to fulfill a dream," Craig said. "Everybody has the right framework and the right mind, and they get a chance to compete, and it's fun."

Plans are now underway for the fourth annual Miracle on Ice Fantasy Camp, according to ORDA spokesman Jon Lundin.

"We're doing a lot of things right so far," Lundin said April 5, "but we're always looking for ways to tweak it."

The cost is $6,500.

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