Friday, 12 April 2024










by: Ryan Doyle

It was about 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, February 9. I was sitting on the bench in front of Holy Cross Hall, talking to my friend Claire when I saw a dark green van pull around the circle. Slowly the passenger window rolled down and I heard, “Let’s go fellows… No time to waste. We’ve got to make Cheshire, Connecticut by noon.” Mike Marzen was standing on the sidewalk and Doc came around the van to open the sliding door for him. “The one thing I ask when I go on location is no hats. So loose the hat Mike,” Doc said. Mike took off his Yankee hat, and I sat down in the passenger seat. So there we were about to set off on an adventure that would take us to Cheshire, Connecticut and the Marvel home.

I was filled with anxiety and nervous excitement as I sat shotgun on my first, real location shoot.

Doc was anxious and insistent that we get on the road immediately. Right away he gave us pointers on traveling, “Don’t depend exclusively on Map Quest, they’ll send you the long way,” he said. In the same breath he delegated our jobs, “Mr. Doyle, you are our scribe for the day. I want you to take copious notes on everything we do today, so that you can write about it when we get back. Mike, you are going to be our navigator, because I’m known for getting lost on the way to a shoot,” as he handed Mike the map.

After all the preliminary work like checking the equipment and directions, the individual tasks were done, so we began what was going to be a “Marvel-ous” day.

Doc met Julie and James Marvel, mother and son, at the Olympic Museum in Lake Placid, N.Y., earlier in January. Unknown to him at the time, the topic was close to their hearts since Julie is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where Olympic coach Herb Brooks coached. James wants to become an Olympic hockey player. It was all quite ironic! To make it even more interesting John Marvel, the father, is a senior executive for ESPN in charge of maintaining their website. It was a simple twist of fate that Julie and James were in Lake Placid for a hockey tournament and they were visiting the museum in between his games when Doc literally bumped into them.

So there we were about to get onto the interstate. Doc was talking about this wonderful occasion. Mike was checking out his map, and I was battling butterflies that filled my stomach. I kept saying to myself, “Just remember this is a learning experience.”

As we drove, Doc began to relax and the mood in the van lightened.

“I’ve never been on a real shoot before, so I’m excited,” I said with a little nervousness left in my voice. “Well, that’s good Ryan, this should be a good experience for you,” Doc replied. He reminded us that, we had to be professional at all times during the shoot.

“Oh I’m ready,” Mike said playfully with his head in the map looking over our route. This wasn’t Mike’s first time on a shoot, so he was more at ease than I was.

For the next two hours we discussed any and everything that there is to talk about, family, sports, consumerism and bottom line economics, and Doc’s trip to Ireland with his wife Kitch. Mike talked about his intention to travel and see Europe. His dream job would be to someday work for National Geographic, traveling to exotic and remote places snapping pictures of everything to inspire people. He is an avid Yankees fan and had been most of his life. His knowledge of the Yankees organization was staggering to me and his disgust with the continuing turmoil over steroids lead to an interesting discussion.

After retiring from decades of teaching, Doc hopes to focus more attention on his television series, “Windsor Park Stories.” He glows when he talks about helping people who are not celebrities tell their stories of triumph and inspiration. He believes strongly in what he does and hopes that people who watch the shows will be encouraged and learn things that will help them improve the quality of their lives. He wants to spend more time working in his garden, spending quality time with his wife, Kitch. His face lights up when he talks about spending more time with his granddaughter. He also plans on writing a book about all his experiences. Boy, retirement sounds nice!

The most interesting subject relating to our project was the idea of team chemistry and how everything in sports today is about the mega million dollar superstars. To illustrate this we used the Yankees organization, with help from Mike’s extensive knowledge. We reflected on how in the 2000-2001 seasons the Yankees were the greatest team in baseball. They were unstoppable during the regular season and excelled during the playoffs. The best weapon for the team wasn’t Bernie Williams or Derek Jeter, it was their team chemistry. Each player complimented the other, in hunger, in talent and in overall respect for their teammates. But in the following years, the owners began to release players that didn’t measure up with the best. They paid top dollar to get the very best in baseball. Today, the Yankees are more of an all-star team than the dynamic team of old. “That’s the reason why they were unable to win the World Series this year,” Mike said with good reason.

In so many ways this was what Herb Brooks worked hard to change. He knew that to beat the Soviets, he needed a team not a group of all-stars. As he once said, “I’m not looking for the best players. I’m looking for the right players.” In the years before the 1980 Winter Olympics, the US hockey team continually lost, even though they were the best of the best on the ice in the USA. Brooks knew that they needed to alter the way they played the game. They needed to out skate, out maneuver and out play the Soviets. To do this he needed players with ability and passion, not big egos. So he recruited the best college kids in the country for his team. He worked them harder than they had ever been worked. He said he wasn’t there to make friends; he was there to build a team that could compete with the Soviets in the third period. In the end team chemistry was essential to victory.

It was a great conversation and before we knew it. Things were going very smoothly. We were on schedule, and it was time for a snack. I think we were all starving from the intense conversation so the idea of food sounded good to me. We whipped out the sandwiches and chowed down. Kitch sure makes a good ham and cheese sandwich! For the first time during the ride, the van was silent. Well, almost, we were all chomping pretty loudly, but it was the first time no one was talking.

After a few uneasy moments, trying to find the right exit in a mile of road work, we finally saw the sign for Cheshire. We got off the exit and turned onto a four lane road divided by two double yellow lines. This is where my butterflies reappeared. As we were approaching the first traffic light Doc mumbled to himself, then looked at us and said, “Oh I have to do this. Don’t worry. I know what I’m doing.” Before we could react, Doc swings the wheel to the left, gets to the curb on the other side of the road and proceeds to reverse. Now, we are parallel across two lanes of oncoming traffic and I’m sitting in the passenger seat, watching the light turn green with a silver Volvo coming straight at us. I knew we were in no immediate danger, but in situations like this my family has a saying, “It’s time to tie your shoe.” In other words duck out of sight. Unprepared Mike and I sat wondering what Doc had in mind when he said “trust me.” The unorthodox u-turn was then compounded when suddenly, the wheel turned again into the opposite lane. This time we only had one lane to maneuver. I looked back at Mike with a smile and we all started to laugh as Doc finished his second u-turn. The strategic automotive maneuvering, as we called it was done so Doc could get a picture of the Welcome to Cheshire established in 1780 sign. After the deed was done we all had a good laugh. From then on Mike and I looked hard for possible shots that would be useful, so we could avoid any more u-turns.

Driving down the back roads to get to the Marvel’s house we stopped to take some more pictures. We saw two full football fields of greenhouses, an old windmill, a policeman and some old New England style houses.

We reached the Marvel’s house about an hour before schedule. Doc pulled the car to the side of the road, and he called Julie to get her OK for our early arrival. She was receptive.

When we arrived, she was very gracious, inviting us in and even complimenting us as we took off our shoes entering her house. She offered us food and drinks and for the next hour we sat at her kitchen table discussing the project, her involvement and her career.

It was so interesting listening to her career path story. After attending the University of Minnesota for two years and then graduating from Arizona State, she spent time preparing for the LPGA Tour. Unfortunately, she missed the qualifying score by two points, so she spent some time on a mini-tour. Unhappy with her situation, she moved back to Minnesota and took a teaching job at a high school where she also coached the girl’s volleyball and both boys and girls golf teams. After two years in Minnesota teaching she wanted to go to graduate school and focus her career in the communication and public relations field. In graduate school at the University of Southern California, she had many internships ranging from teaching assistant at the university’s School of Journalism to working in press operations for the 1984 Olympics. All of her internships were unpaid but she was quick to point out they helped her to see the career path she wanted.

After she received her M.A. degree, she looked for a job with all the sports teams in the Los Angeles area, but found her niche with a public relations firm. From there her career began to take off. She was offered a job as Assistant Public Relations Director for the LPGA which she declined at first but accepted a year later. Within a year she was promoted to Director and she stayed until the LPGA moved its headquarters. During this time, she met her husband, John, at a tournament in Phoenix. Unwilling to relocate with the LPGA, she was offered her “dream job” as communications director for the Golden State Warriors basketball team.

Today, she still works in communications as a special events consultant, organizing and developing communications and marketing plans for clients. Listening to her journey was a real eye-opener! As we talked more about the project her excitement for what we are trying to do was apparent. She was willing to help in anyway she could, she even offered to help me with my career plans. She showed us the rest of her house which was amazing. The basement was complete with a home theater center and all of her Golden State Warriors memorabilia on the walls.

Then she showed us her office where she spent most of her time. After that we climbed the stairs to visit James’s bedroom. It was filled with hockey pictures, figurines and even a photo that captured the final moments of the 1980 US Hockey victory with each of their signatures. No small feat in acquiring them I’m thought to myself.

Then it was time to go to work. We started to set up the lights for Julie’s interview which was going to take place in her office. As we were unloading the equipment, James came walking down the street. He passed us and said “hi” but he was a bit tentative. I wondered how I would have handled a situation like that when I was 11 years old.

Julie’s interview began about 3:15 p.m. and continued for an hour. Mike and I sat quietly in the hallway listening intently to Doc’s questions and Julie’s articulate responses. We tried hard not to make a sound and be respectful of the shooting in progress. Meanwhile as Mike and I sat in silence, young James was perched right above us in the hallway listening to every word.

Soon enough it was 4:30 PM, time for James’ interview. We set up the lighting in his room.

Doc warned us before hand that the hardest things to shoot were animals and children. So with that in the back of my mind I began to focus on James every reaction. He seemed nervous, twiddling his fingers, but he was articulate. Doc asked James to repeat each question before answering, for editing purposes. Well every question from the first to the last, James repeated it, “Jeopardy style.”

James was not without support as his mom was sat directly behind Doc, encouraging James him after each answer.

The interview with James was an amazing experience, and it was obvious that we were experiencing a very special moment. The interview worked, and everyone knew it, but we had no time to celebrate the moment. As soon as James was finished we went to work breaking down the lights so they could be reassembled in the TV Room for the third interview of the day.

With impeccable timing, John arrived, as we were walking through the kitchen carrying equipment. On his way up the stairs, he said to Doc, “I checked out your website, I really liked it. And the people at PBS had a lot of nice things to say about you and your work.”

Doc turned to us with a grin of satisfaction and said, “I told you! This is what I’ve been trying to teach to you kids. You must always check out the legitimacy of your sources and you have to work hard to build a good reputation.” It was another shining moment for Doc’s values. Mike and I looked at each other with the same thought, neat!

We finished setting up the lights and by the time John started his interview it was 5:30 p.m., which left little more than an hour before we had to leave for James’ hockey practice. When the interview began Mike, Julie and I wanted to stay out of the background so we weren’t seen or heard during the interview. We sat in the hallway for a little while, and Julie answered all our questions about her career. During our conversation Doc stopped the interview to rearrange some lighting to improve the lighting in the background of the shot. Without skipping a beat the interview continued on and so did our conversation. Every now and again Mike and I would stay completely silent to hear how John responded to Doc’s questions. He was a poet with words describing the turmoil that demoralized our nation in the years leading up to the 1980 Olympics.

Then our attention shifted to the front door as the pizza man showed up with our dinner. We sat in Julie’s office and devoured our dinner. At one point, Julie crawled across the kitchen to get plates for us, so she wouldn’t be seen in the shot. With that selfless gesture Julie made my favorite people’s list. Mike and I finished our food and waited for Doc to finish his interview with John before we moved again. Doc was so busy working he never got a chance to eat any of the pizza.

John’s interview ran right down to the wire and while we were breaking down the lights, James was loading his hockey equipment into the car. We quickly made sweeps round the house to make sure we didn’t forget anything. Then finally we were off down the back roads of Connecticut headed south. I remember it so vividly because I was the one who was going to navigate us home. During the ride there we discussed the day's events and what we learned from them. The main lesson of the day was something Doc tries to teach us in his seminar room: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

We pulled up to the ice hockey rink named The Ice Pavilion which was tucked away in the back of a corporate shipping center. It felt a little weird as we walked with Doc, video camera in hand, taping Julie as she narrated her way into the area where James was going to practice. I thought to myself, “I wonder if Doc is even going to use this footage.” I wasn’t sure but, it never hurts to have extra footage just in case.

When the doors opened to the rink the smell of frozen chlorine hit me like a wave and right away I felt a sense of loss, a sad feeling, remembering the days when I used to play. From there Julie introduced us, “This is Dr. Mussari and his students, Ryan and Michael, and they’re from a small college in Pennsylvania. They’re doing a senior project on the 1980 Olympic Hockey team that beat the Russians.” We then met the two coaches and went into locker room to talk with James teammates who were getting ready. Once again the memories of old glory days flooded back since just about every hockey locker room looks and smells the same.

While Doc recorded footage of the hockey practice, I walked around to get some of the parents’ feedback on our project, their children’s hockey experiences and more importantly directions on how to get home. One father described the coach as having “Brooksish-intensity.”

In the interview with the coach he said that his biggest influence was Herb Brooks. He was a young teenager when Brooks lead the USA to victory and it had left an indelible mark in his life. “I love hockey,” he said, and this was the best way for him to give back to the sport that has taught him so much. Brooks was his motivation, his mentor and so he uses the same techniques of hard work, determination and fortitude to coach his players.

When I talked with the parent’s one father mentioned Lake Placid as the mecca for young hockey players who want to touch greatness. Every child and their family looks forward to going to Lake Placid to play in yearly tournaments. No other sport has a place where greatness was achieved on such a monumental scale.

Once I got the directions home, I walked back to the bench where Doc and Mike were sitting, shooting B-roll of the kids skating... It wasn’t much longer before Doc gave the order to move out. Rounding the oval, just past the goalie net, a puck slammed against the glass. Both Mike and I shuttered with the sound and the possibility of being hit by the hard rubber puck. Doc, on the other hand, didn’t flinch, head down, focused on what to do next. That’s the way Doc worked, no time to stop and worry about harsh possibilities but stay focused and keep your head down if you don’t want to hurt yourself.

We met up with Julie who was watching on the other side. We thanked her for her hospitality while she complimented us on our drive and professionalism. It felt good to know that a woman with her credentials saw that our purpose there was genuine. We exchanged emails and phone numbers and with a shake of the hand were on our way; well not exactly. Doc saw something in front of the building and he took a few minutes to snap some digital pictures of the arena before we got into the car and were on our way.

Once we were on Route 84, Doc asked, “So one minute drill. What did you learn here today?”

Hesitant to go first while I shuffled through the mental pictures in my memory bank, the preliminary answer I came up with was that James was an incredibly knowledgeable young man. I truly felt that James most impressed me today with the answers in his interview.

Mike came up with a much more logical and overall lesson to his day. It was that making a first impression is the most important thing to a relationship. He mentioned that Julie was astonished that we were already taking off our shoes as she turned to tell us that is a rule in her house. Mike was right; being respectful left, an indelible impression from the get-go.

If I were asked today, what were the main lessons that I learned form the Connecticut trip; I would say, first, that, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” The sign on our seminar room wall took on new meaning. The things we did to make our first impression a good one was to write a letter to ask the Marvel family for an interview. Second we called the house before we arrived so as not to catch them off guard. Third, we took off our shoes at the door. Every piece of furniture we moved for the interviews we returned to its original place. I think those actions showed respect to Julie and her home. Coach Brooks was a big believer in respecting others, and I think these three components were the reason why Julie has such a wonderful impression of us to this day.

The second lesson I learned from the day that Doc once lectured and John affirmed, was that it takes a life time of hard work to be respected in your field. When John came home from work and said “Oh yeah, Tony, I checked you out and heard nice things from the people at PBS,” a bulb popped on in my head. “Oh wow,” I said to myself, “Doc was right again. If you have a good reputation, people will know.” I’m sure Doc checked John out as well but that’s research he would say. What John did was for reassurance. I think it was our honesty as well that gave John the reassurance that Doc was for real and that he would not regret letting us into his home. Our honest intentions in going to their home to hear their story was a good reflection on the honesty that Herb Brooks taught us by his example.

The last value that I learned from this experience resonates from Herb Brooks and his devotion to the sport of hockey. I grew to understand exactly what Lake Placid means to so many people who remember the 1980 Olympics and the ones who are growing up now and learning about them. To them it’s a place where dreams come true, where for a brief moment they can touch the past and relive the greatness of what those 20 college kids accomplished. When parents enter Lake Placid they think of that moment in time. The nation was going through a very tough time. People were lining up at the gas pump while others were being held hostage in Iran. Then like a bedtime story, there was this team of college kids going up against the greatest team in the world. The odds were so high in the Soviets’ favor that no one could dream of winning except one determined coach, Herb Brooks.

The Connecticut trip was an adventure full of inspirational and educational moments. I am sure that, Doc, Mike and the Marvel family feel the same as I do.