LAKE PLACID, NY. — Making the steady climb on the winding roads into the Adirondacks, it’s clear to see why Lake Placid is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts seeking an active vacation: bikers and runners line the shoulder of the road tackling the challenging hills, a lone fly-fisherman stands in the quick current of the Ausable River, and kayaks silently glide across Mirror Lake.
For just over 100 young men, a different kind of adventure brought them to the Olympic Training Center last week. They are some of the best young hockey players in the world who were vying for a chance to represent their country at the upcoming 2014 World Junior Hockey Championships in Malmo, Sweden. Canada will play their first game on Boxing Day against Germany with a tilt against the Americans scheduled for New Year’s Eve.
Lake Placid has a certain nostaglic charm and strolling along the main street leaves one wondering how much has really changed here since 1980. The trip in the time machine is complete once entering the Herb Brooks Arena. The quaintness and intimacy of the 7,700 seat venue was not captured by the ABC cameras covering what would become known as “The Miracle on Ice.”
Not much has changed since that game more than 30 years ago: wooden benches remain in the upper bowl, even the score clock over center ice is the same. Sure, they have added advertisements to the stark white boards but there’s a feeling that if you close your eyes it wouldn’t be hard to relive the moment. And then the silence was broken by the voice of Al Michaels, his famous call coming from the corner of the rink where a tour group was gathered around monitors.
“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!”
The fog hovering over the ice surface only seemed to add to the mystique of the scene. It quickly dissipated as Team Sweden stepped on the ice to begin what would be a crisp, hi-tempo morning practise.
Martin Lapointe, Canadiens Director of Player Development, was in attendance keeping a close eye on prospect Jacob de la Rose. Teammate Sebastian Collberg sustained a twisted knee in a game against the Team USA white squad earlier in the week. Lapointe told All Habs that Collberg was doing better but given that his place on the team is mostly assured, there was no sense in risking further injury by playing.
A helpful Olympic Center staffer pointed the way to media row. “In case you’re interested in a little trivia, your seat is right next to THE booth,” he said, referring to the broadcast position of Michaels and his colour man for the US – Soviet game. Ken Dryden was the second voice on the broadcast just one day after writing his bar exam in Toronto. Michaels was assigned to Olympic hockey as he was the only member of the ABC team who had called hockey before, precisely one game eight years earlier.
As the vintage score clock powered up, it displayed Canada as 5-1 losers. This was more than an hour prior to the Canada – USA puck drop but it would prove to be quite prophetic. This game was not one that could be explained easily by solely looking at the final result.
Canada held the upper hand at even strength for most of the game with a decided edge in physical play. In fact, the team in red did not give up a five-on-five goal. However, the Americans tallied three power-play markers, one shortie and a goal while playing four-on-four.
Jon Gillies (Flames) was the star of the game with several highlight reel saves in the Team USA goal, particularly in the second period. Quentin Shore (Senators) had two goals and an assist for the Americans, carrying them to a 5-1 victory.
“If we’re going to be successful, we’re going to have to have good goaltending, which we had today. Our specialty teams play was outstanding, especially our penalty killing. We scored some power-play goals. We were opportunistic today and it’s a lot easier to play with a lead.” — Don Lucia, head coach, Team USA
After a well-played first period, Canada ran into discipline problems. Jake Paterson (Jets) in the Canadian goal didn’t equal Gillies’ performance but could not be faulted. Team USA took a 2-0 lead on two consecutive 5-on-3 power-plays. Tom Wilson (Capitals) was the most noticeable player for Canada hitting everything that moved.
Montreal Canadiens prospects Zach Fucale and Charles Hudon were not in the Team Canada lineup. Similarly Mike McCarron did not dress for Team USA.
“Through two periods we only gave up three or four scoring chances five-one-five but the difference was specialty teams. It’s like Day 5 or Day 6 of a training camp. These kids have had two practices coming in here and playing three games in four days. I thought we hit a wall here today.” — Brent Sutter, head coach, Team Canada
It was Sutter’s decision to omit names from the back of player’s jerseys. Instead “CANADA” simply appeared above their numbers reminiscent of another team from the past: 1972 Summit Series.
Canada finished sixth in the standings in Lake Placid in 1980 with a lineup that included Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill and Ottawa Senators head coach Paul MacLean. Finland placed fourth with Jari Kurri making his international hockey debut tallying two goals and an assist. Sweden took the Olympic bronze with Mats Naslund playing a key role scoring 10 points in seven games.
Back to the present, it was Sweden and Finland squaring off in the late afternoon match. Jacob de la Rose (Canadiens) opened the scoring for the Swedes in a closely played contest. The other Habs prospect Artturi Lehkonen played on Finland’s top line with Teuvu Teravainen (Blackhawks) who dominated the game, scoring two goals.
Finland won the game 3-2 after a 10-round shootout with the winner scored by Samu Markkula (eligible for 2014 draft.) Finnish coach Karri Kivi called on Teravainen four times and Lehkonen three times in the shootout.
“It was a big win, of course. The last games against the U.S. and Canada we were so near but we didn’t have the courage to take the win. We needed this one.” — Karri Kivi, head coach, Team Finland
The Lake Placid development camp format was enthusiastically embraced by players and coaches alike. For a week, young men from four countries had a chance to prove that they belonged as a member of their national team. They each headed back to their respective teams where the evaluation process will continue in preparation for the World Junior Championships.
In the words of Herb Brooks, “Great moments are born from great opportunity.”