Do You Believe in Miracles? Utica Hockey Plays in Historic Arena for National Championship This Weekend
by Bill Keeler
When the Utica Pioneers Hockey Team plays this weekend in the NCAA Championship they’ll be stepping into an arena filled with American history.
It was the call heard ’round the world from Lake Placid, New York. “Do you believe in miracles,” shouted ABC Television’s Al Michaels as Team USA defeated the Soviets in the semi-final game of the Olympic Hockey Tournament in 1980, known as the ‘Miracle on Ice.’ That was February 20th and America was deeply entwined in the Cold War.
ABC was covering the Olympics and ultimately, Americans never saw the game live on television. It wasn’t a part of the network’s live coverage and WUTR-TV was in regular late afternoon programming when the graphic scrolled at the bottom of the screen announcing that this group of American amateur hockey players had defeated the unbeatable Soviets. Certainly, it was one of those memorable moments in sports history and it all happened in the very same arena Utica will be playing in on Friday night.
The arena, originally built for the 1932 Olympics is now called the Herb Brooks Arena after the famed coach who led the Olympians to victory in 1980. Brooks, who publicly talked about how his team didn’t have a chance against the Russians, was credited with
preparing his young squad for the ‘David versus Goliath’ victory. Brooks, who coached the Utica Devils AHL Hockey team during the 1991-92 season, would go on to coach the Jersey Devils and the New York Rangers. Brooks died in a one-car accident in August of 2003.
This Weekend’s NCAA Frozen Four
The NCAA Division III Semi-Final round begins at 4:00 p.m. on Friday as Oswego State takes on Norwich. Utica will play Wisconsin EAU Claire at 7:00 p.m.. The winners will play at 7 p.m. on Saturday for the Division III National Championship.