Monday, 06 February 2023

I was at once flattered and intrigued when asked by Dr. Mussari to come and speak to his Mass Communications class as part of their Miracle at Placid project. Prior to my visit, Dr. Mussari provided a brief description of the project as well as the students’ newly constructed website. My fascination arose from an admitted lack of knowledge about Herb Brooks and the 1980 Olympic Hockey Team’s triumph in Lake Placid, NY. (I was only nine years old at the time.) I hadn’t seen the movie, Miracle, and surprisingly, in six years of marriage, my husband—a goalie in two recreational leagues—had never mentioned the legendary U.S. vs. Soviet matchup, even though he, like so many, considers it to be the greatest upset and most momentous event in sports history.

As I combed through the text on the beautifully designed Miracle at Placid site, I began to appreciate the magnitude of this undertaking by a dedicated professor and an enthusiastic group of seniors. I was amazed that they had actually traveled to Lake Placid to attend the 25th anniversary celebration of the 1980 Olympics, reliving the spirit of Brooks’s Hockey Team and coming face to face with some of its members as well as the Brooks family. I also realized what an ideal and meaningful context Herb Brooks and his team, as well as the Lake Placid community, provide for teaching students about what’s truly important—about values that will add richness to their professional and personal lives, setting them apart in a world that has largely abandoned those universal values in the name of profit, mass production, and self aggrandizement.

I hope that in my conversation with Dr. Mussari and his students I was able to contribute to this significant life lesson. I love the idea of being able to help and inspire young people simply by sharing my experiences and perhaps prepare them for what may lie ahead—especially obstacles they may face in striving toward their goals and dreams. In meeting and talking with this group of bright and talented seniors and their mentor I was inspired myself—and excited to play a small part in their project.

Dr. Mussari very kindly invited me to attend the special events surrounding the Miracle project, and to create my own piece of artwork for the website. This led me to research Herb Brooks and his team, seeking to understand the emotion that reverberated in the arena during that unforgettable 4-3 win over the Soviets. My intention was to convey the key elements of the Miracle project (Brooks’s impact on his players, the team’s dedication and will to prevail, and the spirit of the fans and the citizens of Lake Placid) without overcomplicating my composition. Initial collage sketches finally gave way to a more simplified, mixed media design that I have titled “An Olympic Moment.”

I created this piece using watercolor with colored pencil enhancements in order to highlight my focal image: three members of the U.S. Hockey Team reveling in their “Olympic Moment.” Several game photographs provided sources for the work although only one of the three players—Mike Ramsey—is identified by his jersey. (I chose Ramsey because he began his career playing under Brooks at the University of Minnesota and later deferred his NHL draft offer to join Brooks’s Olympic team.) The idea here is not to recreate a photographic image so that the other two figures could represent any member(s) of the team. I positioned their gloves to symbolize the five Olympic rings while the American flags convey the elation and patriotism that overtook Lake Placid and the country, which was struggling to overcome a troubled decade (Vietnam, Watergate, etc.) and concerned about its 52 American hostages in Iran, as well as the Cold War. (USA Hockey: A Celebration of a Great Tradition contains a passage noting the “incredible number of American flags” in the crowd, many of them the oversized sort normally hung from high flag polls.)

Finally, in order to tie my image to Herb Brooks, I chose to do something rather unusual and include a three-line paraphrase of Brooks’s pre-game speech in the foreground: “Great moments are born from great opportunity…You were meant to be here; this moment is yours.” I think these words, more than perhaps an image of the man himself, underscore his integrity, his success as a coach, and the vital role he played in the “Miracle on Ice.”

-Colleen Curley