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Find Rich History and Ice Skating at Lake Placid

Worn wooden benches float near gleaming white rafters. Far below, parents and coaches sprinkle the sea of red stadium seats as amateur figure skaters glide along shining ice. A raspy, familiar voice — that of Al Michaels — resonates from a distant television. “Ten seconds, the countdown going on right now!” For a moment, the barren stands fill with jubilant spectators and American flags. “Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game.” Glee palpitates the air. “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!” The dainty girls in bejeweled costumes continue circling the ice, unaware the 10 people huddled in…

Worn wooden benches float near gleaming white rafters. Far below, parents and coaches sprinkle the sea of red stadium seats as amateur figure skaters glide along shining ice. A raspy, familiar voice — that of Al Michaels — resonates from a distant television. “Ten seconds, the countdown going on right now!” For a moment, the barren stands fill with jubilant spectators and American flags. “Morrow, up to Silk. Five seconds left in the game.” Glee palpitates the air. “Do you believe in miracles? Yes!”

The dainty girls in bejeweled costumes continue circling the ice, unaware the 10 people huddled in the a corner nose-bleed section had just traveled through time to the greatest moment in the his­tory of USA Hockey: the night the Yanks beat the Soviet Union en route to an improbable Olympic gold medal.

Herb Brooks Arena, home of that 1980 “Miracle on Ice” match, is one of four ice rinks at Lake Placid’s Olympic Center, which hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Games. More than 400,000 tourists visit the Cen­ter annually, hoping to glimpse those glory days. Many of them are younger than 25, but they are here thanks to Disney’s “Mir­acle,” a 2004 movie adaptation of the U.S. men’s hockey team’s trek to Olympic gold.

Visitors can relive that magical mo­ment three times daily. Tour guides lead visitors through the rinks. One such guide, Howard Riley, recounts sit­ting eight rows behind the U.S. bench.

But you didn’t need to sit close to see Brooks, he was a notoriously loud dresser.

“You could see him a mile away,” Riley says.

From Riley’s seat, glance to the left and you catch a glimpse of the USA rink. Less grand than its neighbor, the rink hosted preliminary hockey matches and practice skating sessions during the 1980 Games. Today, it welcomes National Hockey League teams such as the Philadelphia Flyers and the Boston Bruins for practice sessions.

Late June through early August, the na­tion’s finest figure skaters and ice dancers take over and spread to the inner lair: the Jack Shea Skating Rink. Where figure skaters once moved in figure-eight patterns across dyed ice, the complex’s oldest rink now hosts tourists hoping to skate in the shadows of past Olym­pic greats such as Norwegian legend Sonja Henie, who won her second gold in 1932.

The Jack Shea Rink’s historic charm invigorates tourist and former fig­ure skater Beth Putnam, who trained on each of the complex’s rinks.

“When you skate on that ice pad, you have such a deep sense of its history,” she says. “You can imagine how Olympic scenes were played out way back when.”

You can imagine it outside too on the Sheffield Speed Skating Oval, the Center’s only outdoor rink. Starting in early Decem­ber, amateur and experienced skaters alike bundle against the North Country’s chill to coast the same ice on which speed skater and Lake Placid native Jack Shea won two gold medals in 1932, and Eric Heiden cruised to five individual speed skating golds in 1980.

Denny Allen, the center’s manager, skates on the Sheffield Oval each win­ter, just as he has every year since age 4. “I enjoy skating there in the ear­ly evening,” he says. “The tempera­ture is just right, and it’s very relaxing.”

He returns to the center refreshed, rel­ishing its rich Olympic pride and spirit. The Lake Placid Olympic Center boasts a vast history spanning more than 80 years and continues to play host to the world. Teem­ing with current events and powerful memo­ries, the venue offers an opportunity walk in the shadows of Olympic Champions and to once again believe in miracles.

Part of the “Olympics 2014: Home Games package”
Issue 2: Winter/Spring 2014

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